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Yong Tau Foo : The Fish Fabulous

My house is next to the Doi Suthep, so I have a great view of the mountain.  I love the Doi Suthep after the rain because the sky looks so fresh. The trees and flowers seem so satisfied. After the rain stops I ride down to Chonlapatan Road and go to Ratchapruek Park to walk around and breathe in the fresh air. At Ton Payom market, the city transforms into countryside. And the farther I go the more peaceful the atmosphere. Sometimes I go as far as the Samoeng intersection. If you ever have to go from Chonlapatan Road to the Samoeng intersection, turn left about 20 meters from the intersection, and you will find an eatery called ‘Fish Balls Jae Da’ where the most delicious noodles with fish balls are sold. The owner once told me that her soft and sticky fish balls were made from yellowtail fish. Jae Da’s fish balls don’t smell fishy. The broth is also special. Another thing I find unusual, but nice, is that they use iceberg lettuce instead of bean sprouts for their noodle dishes. The only downside of the Jae Da eatery is that they don’t serve Yong Tau Foo. So, I take home some steamed fish balls and sticks and the broth to make Yong Tau Foo at home.


created on: 09/01/10

Yong Tau Foo is believed to have been invented by Hakka people. In Chinese, it literally means stuffed tofu. Yong Tau Foo is a common food in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

Yong Tau Foo looks different in each country, and the sauce is also made differently. For example, in Singapore, the cook will let you choose your ingredients, including tofu, shrimp, and octopus, bitter gourd stuffed with mashed fish, lettuce, and mushrooms.

At restaurants in Singapore diners are given chopsticks to pick up the ingredients. The chef parboils and puts them into a bowl of Yong Tau Foo. Singaporean Yong Tau Foo can also come with rice instead of noodles. The Singaporean Yong Tau Foo sauces are spicy and sour red or sweet soya bean sauces.

As for Thailand, the main ingredients include the red sauce, fish balls, pig blood jelly, crispy squid, and Thai morning glory, additional ingredients could be jelly fish, Jew’s ear mushroom, fried tofu, crunchy fried shrimp, dumpling, fish, and meatballs. However, it bothers me whenever I find Chinese morning glory instead of Thai morning glory, because, in my opinion, Thai morning glory is more suited to Thai Yong Tau Foo and Chinese morning glory is best for Sukiyaki.

Anyway, as I have gone on and on about Yong Tau Foo, it wouldn’t make sense if I don’t have a Yong Tau Foo recipe to give. The common Yong Tau Foo sauce is actually a sticky sour red sauce made from rice, pickled bean curd, pickling garlic liquid or vinegar (some recipes also use sesame.)

Some sauces are very spicy because of the addition of bird's eyes chilli pepper ground in vinegar as an ingredient (the ground pepper is separated from vinegar for use.) Some people find the rice sauce too red, and use ketchup instead.

This Yong Tau Foo sauce is from Khun Bibi (Bong Bong) from Thanks to her for allowing Compass to publish her recipe for our readers (I already tried it and the sauce was amazing).

200g ketchup

100g yellow pepper sauce

100g red pepper sauce

6 pieces of tofu (bottled), mashed

100g oyster sauce

2-3 tablespoon of light soy sauce or 1 teaspoon of salt

About 20 bird's eyes chilli peppers (not necessary if you prefer less spicy sauce)

Note: Use Sriracha Panit products for yellow pepper sauce and red pepper sauce, if you can find them, but it is OK to make without.

Put all ingredients in a pot, and then heat up in the pot. When the sauce boils, add the flavors to your taste, for example, if you prefer your sauce more sour, add more vinegar. However, sour should be the main flavor, the secondary flavor is sweet, and the sauce should be a bit salty and spicy. You can add food coloring to make the sauce redder. Remove the pot from the heat after flavoring and coloring. Wait for the sauce to cool, and transfer it into a sterilized bottle. Keep the sauce in the fridge to preserve.

For the broth use pig backbone, scapular or chicken bones (fat removed). Use one or all. The ratio should be 1kg of bones to three liters of clean water.

To prepare the broth, add water to a pot over a medium heat then add the bones. When the water boils, lower the heat. Skim off the bubbles gradually. Smash two parsley roots, one garlic, one roasted black pepper together and put them in a muslin cloth. Tie the cloth and put it in the pot. Season the broth with one tablespoon of salt, rock sugar, and light soy sauce each. You can also add radish to add sweetness. But radish has a distinct smell that affects the overall smell of the broth, so I recommend using Chinese cabbage instead. Stir the broth for one hour and remove the bones from the broth. If the bones are in the water for too long, the broth will be too oily. Continue to stir the broth for 30-45 minutes.

For Yong Tau Foo use fish balls, fried shrimps, parboiled or boiled before slicing them.

Remove the mucus from the squid, clean with salt water, and then clean it again with fresh water, two to three times. Slice it into small pieces and put in water.

Jelly fish
Clean the jelly fish with salt water, then immerse in fresh water for a while, then squeeze the jelly fish under running water, and repeat these steps until the saltiness is washed away. Slice into small pieces and then immerse in fresh water again. You can use white Jew’s ear mushrooms instead of jelly fish. But be careful to pick the grayish yellow ones (but not brown ones because that means they are old.) and avoid pure white ones because they are whitened by chemicals.

Blood jelly
Choose fresh and soft pig blood jelly with not-too-dark color and no smell.  Slice it into small pieces, boil and then immerse in clean water.

Thai morning glory

Pick the soft one. Clean it with water and slice it into long pieces. Parboil in boiling water with a little salt. After they are done, put them in cool water with ice to preserve the greenness of the leaves.

Sour seasoning liquid
The best sour seasoning liquid for Yong Tau Foo is ground pepper in vinegar. It’s easily made. Grind five yellow peppers or goat peppers and mix together with ½ cup of vinegar. Transfer it into a glass bottle with a closed lid. Store it in a fridge for one night before using.

Finally, to make a bowl of Yong Tau Foo, you start by heating the broth. Next, boil water in a pot for parboiling noodle (large strip is the best for this.) Then, put prepared morning glory in the bowl, followed by the boiled noodles and add fried garlic oil. Later, parboil squid, jelly fish, blood jelly, fish balls, and transfer them into the bowl. Then, add the prepared sauce, one teaspoon of fish sauce, sugar (for people who love sweetness), and sour seasoning liquid each. Lastly, ladle the broth into the bowl. And a delicious bowl of Yong Tau Foo is ready to serve.



Original Text : Guzzie Ang

Text in English : Compass Magazine Team

Photograph : Karin Mongkolphan

First Published : Compass Magazine, September 2010




christian watson

christian watson
Sep 10, 2010 12:28 CDT

This is a great entry, congrats! Please think about entering your recipe into our system. I can help you if you get stuck. Thanks!


Sep 2, 2010 10:31 CDT

Hi Guzzie Ang

I've read your blog and leaned so much about food I'm not familiar with.  Really interesting. 

Cheers Anna

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Food columnist and blogger living in Chiangmai, Thailand.  
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