Vietnamese Tofu Curry

Vietnamese Vegetable Curry (Cà Ri Chay)

Vietnamese Tofu Curry

This Vietnamese curry brings me back many years. The mix of savoury spices and rich root vegetables was a surprise when I first tried it. It reminds me of my first years in Toronto, trying new cuisines and opening my eyes.

I think the first Vietnamese dish I ever tried was a vegetarian curry. A group of co-workers filed into the (now gone) Peach Garden restaurant around the corner, and I had NO IDEA what to get. Being veg at the time, I was happy to be able to narrow down my options.

Vegetable curry, with fake “meat”, sounded like a good idea to me.

It was incredible. I wasn’t able to put my finger on what made it so special. There were the root veggies – I knew they weren’t all potato, but I had never tasted these flavours before. I figure they were an assortment of white-fleshed yams and purple-veined taro.

It was the sauce. Like, and yet incredibly unlike the Indian and Thai curries that I was becoming familiar with. Maybe more like a marriage of the two?

When looking at the list of spices in the curry powder, it’s not hard to imagine why: a healthy dose of turmeric (hello, yellow!) mixed with star anise, cloves, coriander, nutmeg and cinnamon. As I prepared my curry powder, I was a little worried that it would be too cinnamon. My freshly ground cinnamon was incredibly pungent, and seemed to overpower the mix at first. I shouldn’t have worried; it worked perfectly.

If you have a favourite Vietnamese curry powder, feel free to use it here. I have linked to the recipe that I use, and can vouch for it.

Eating the curry brought me back to my early days in Toronto. This is where I first fell in love with curries – Thai, Indian, Vietnamese (and, eventually, others!).

This is also where I decided I had to learn to make them myself…

Vietnamese Tofu Curry (Cà Ri Chay)

This dish can easily be made vegetarian/vegan by omitting the fish sauce (and using a vegetable broth) and gluten-free by omitting the seitan. These changes won’t drastically change the dish.

4-6 servings


  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil or coconut oil
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 1-2 cups chopped mushrooms (optional)
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons Vietnamese curry powder
  • roasted chili flakes, to taste (optional)
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 chinese eggplants, cubed
  • 1-2 cups gluten (seitan) pieces (optional)
  • 2 cups root vegetables, peeled and cubed (sweet potato, potato, taro)
  • 1 lemongrass, cut into 3″ lengths and bruised (a mallet or a pestle work well)
  • 2″ piece of ginger, sliced thickly
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves or bay leaves
  • 1-2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1.5 cups of light broth (like vegetable or chicken – can even use water)
  • 400 mL of coconut milk
  • 1 cup green beans or long beans, cut to 2-3″ lengths
  • scallions, fresh cilantro and/or Thai basil to serve


  1. Heat oil in a stir fry pan, over medium-high heat. Fry tofu until browned on all sides, and a bit crispy. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add a bit more oil to the pan. Sauté shallots and mushrooms over medium-high heat, until liquids are released. Add chopped garlic, and sauté for about a minute.
  3. Add the curry powder, chili flakes and a pinch of salt. Stir regularly, and sauté for one to two minutes.
  4. Add eggplant, gluten (seitan) and potatoes and mix well.
  5. Add lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce and broth. Mix well and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the coconut milk, and simmer uncovered until root vegetable pieces are tender. The sauce should be fairly thick, similar in consistency to a milkshake. If the sauce is a bit too thick for your taste, add a little bit of water.
  7. Add beans in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Try to remove the lemongrass pieces and ginger.
  8. Add tofu and some of the Thai basil just before serving.
  9. Serve over rice, topped with some scallions, cilantro and/or Thai basil.

3 thoughts on “Vietnamese Vegetable Curry (Cà Ri Chay)”

  1. Steph,thanks very much for stopping by and linking in with Food on friday. I am blown away by all the different breakfast dishes – over 175 now!

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