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Crudités with Lemongrass-Fermented Tofu Dip
For rau củ sống chấm chao, a Vietnamese take on crudités, serve raw, seasonal veggies with a tangy, spicy, umami-rich sauce featuring chao (fermented tofu), a wondrous ingredient that’s akin to creamy, winy cheese. Fermented tofu typically punches up stir-fried greens or a bowl of porridge, but Vietnamese cooks love to let it shine as a sauce. The dynamite nước chấm chao (fermented tofu dipping sauce) could be paired with grilled goat or lamb, but it’s fantastic as a dip. For this recipe, from my cookbook “Ever-Green Vietnamese” (Ten Speed Press, 2023), choose at least three vegetables from the crudité options. The sesame seed addition isn’t standard, but adds body and richness to the sauce, uniting the ingredients. Make a double batch of sauce, if you like, so you have extra to dress grilled romaine; top it with fried shallots for a summertime salad.
By Andrea Nguyen
Updated Oct. 12, 2023
Total Time 40 min
Prep Time 10 min
Cook Time 30 min

  • Yield:6 servings
  • subheading: FOR THE DIP:
  • ¼ cup packed fermented white tofu (see Tip), preferably without chile, plus brine as needed
  • 1½ tablespoons agave syrup, mild honey or granulated sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more as needed
  • 1½ tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass
  • 2 to 3 Thai or small serrano chiles, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds (optional, to thicken and enrich)
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons neutral oil (such as canola or peanut)
  • subheading: FOR THE CRUDITÉS:
  • 1 or 2 small watermelon radishes, or a half or whole bunch red radishes, sliced thinly or cut into wedges
  • 1 or 2 medium carrots, scrubbed or peeled then sliced on the diagonal
  • ½ to 1 pound jicama, peeled and cut into chubby, 3-inch sticks
  • 1 or 2 Persian cucumbers, or ¼ to ½ small English cucumber, thickly sliced or cut into chubby 3-inch sticks
  • 1 or 2 small handfuls raw asparagus or green beans, trimmed and cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 1 or 2 small endives, leaves separated
Note: Ingredients may have been altered from the original.
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