Vietnamese Lemongrass Green Beans and Tofu – Recipe

Vietnamese_Green_Beans_Tofu
Vietnamese Lemongrass Green Beans and Tofu

More easy, weeknight-accessible goodness. Serve this with the Coconut Rice and a salad with a nice lime-based dressing and you are eating well tonight. The idea here is maximum flavor, provided by substantial quantities of lemongrass, ginger and garlic.

If you haven't worked with lemongrass before, you need to know how to prepare it. Don't worry, it is easy, but do it carefully or you can end up with unpleasant woody bits in your stir-fry. Here's what you do: remove the outer layer of each stem and trim away the bottom 1/4" inch and most of the top, leaving only about a 3" piece that should be tender enough to sink a fingernail into. Now pound it with something heavy to release the flavors. Many cooks use the back edge of their knife, but you'll have to decide if you feel safe doing that. If not, a can of beans should work fine. Once you've given it a good thrashing, finely mince it and you are all set.

When I work with tofu, I almost always fry it separately so it can get some serious surface area in a hot pan and get a little crust going. Then I give it a little me-time off to the side while the rest of the dish cooks, and add it back at the last minute to come back to temperature. Time-saving tip: start the tofu cooking, then use that time to prepare the other ingredients.

Oyster mushrooms would be good instead of the green beans in this dish.You could also add a bit of finely diced yellow bell pepper for more color.

Since I'm vegetarian and don't cook with fish sauce, I use a little bit of soy sauce to provide a bit of background umami.

Vietnamese Lemongrass Green Beans and Tofu
Serves 4
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free

  • 1 lb. extra-firm tofu, patted dry and cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1 lb. green beans, stem ends trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and finely grated fresh ginger (a microplane is ideal for this)
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass (prepared as described above)
  • optional: fresh chili peppers of your choice, minced
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • salt
  • black pepper
  1. In a large skillet or wok over maximum heat, fry the tofu in about half of the oil until it is crispy and brown, stirring occasionally. See picture above. Remove to paper towels and season with salt and black pepper.
  2. Add the remaining oil to the pan, along with the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chilis (if using). Fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the green beans and toss thoroughly. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until somewhat tender and nice brown spots are developing. If necessary, you can add a bit of water and cover the pan for a couple of minutes to steam them. (Or pre-microwave for 3-4 minutes first – this can be a really helpful technique).
  3. Add the tofu back in, along with the soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir, taste and make any final seasoning adjustments, and serve.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Thursday, March 12th, 2009 in Gluten-Free or modifiable, Kid Friendly, Main Courses, Recipes, Vegan or Modifiable.

16 Responses to “Vietnamese Lemongrass Green Beans and Tofu – Recipe”

  1. March 12, 2009 at 8:48 am #

    Sounds good. I’ll need to compare this to the Long Beans and Tofu Stir Fry recipe recently posted on Serious Eats (link to seriouseats.com). Maybe a bean battle next week!

  2. Michael Natkin
    March 12, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    Vietnamese vs. Chinese bean & tofu battle. Sounds like there will be no
    losers.

  3. March 12, 2009 at 9:32 am #

    I did notice the Tofu pieces in the coconut rice post :D Glad you gave the recipe. the picture looks really fresh and lively :)

  4. March 12, 2009 at 9:41 am #

    I think I am in a protein deficiency since I am craving tofu constantly. This is one of my favorite ways to eat it. Thanks!

  5. March 12, 2009 at 7:10 pm #

    Green beans are by far my favorite veggie. I bookmarked this page so I can try this recipe.

    I’ve never worked with lemon grass, so that’s kind of exciting to try!

  6. shayna
    January 1, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    I am new to your site and I just stumbled across this recipe. I made it with a brown rice version of the coconut rice (which I baked ala Alton Brown), it was so good!

    I am a new vegetarian; have been eating vegetarian meals but have recently cut out all meat and need all the help I can get with tofu. For the longest time I have been having difficulty browning it. Your tip to have it on the highest heat possible gave me the brilliant idea to use my cast iron pan (which is by far my favorite) and it worked out really awesome! Thanks!

  7. Michael Natkin
    January 1, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

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    Hey Shayna – glad you liked it! You'll like this article: link to herbivoracious.com

  8. john
    August 11, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    Have you tried using mushroom broth for umami? If you’re around a Vietnamese community, you can usually find it alongside the dried meat broths. (I recently went to an Asian market, and they started a vegetarian section, and it was in there instead, so look around.)

    You have to pay attention to the ingredients to get one that isn’t all MSG though.

  9. Michael Natkin
    August 15, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    Hey John – I haven't used a mushroom broth powder, but I do often use a broth made by soaking dried shiitakes and it is indeed a wonderful source of umami. Here's an example use: link to herbivoracious.com

    Michael Natkin

    Find me:

    The latest from my blog, Herbivoracious: Watermelon and Sweet Onion Gazpacho – Recipe

  10. Mike
    October 15, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    How do you get such a serious char on your tofu? It looks like a new orleans blackened dish. Is there some other trick than to just crank up the gas to max? Actually, i’ve tried this and it doesn’t work too well.

  11. Michael Natkin
    October 15, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

    Hey Mike – the keys to getting a good char on your tofu are:

    (1) use extra firm tofu
    (2) pat all the surfaces thoroughly dry
    (3) use a good amount of oil in the pan
    (4) use very high heat

    (5) don't crowd the pan, make sure they have plenty of room, so work in batches if needed
    (6) be patient, don't keep turning them, wait until they brown, then flip

  12. Martha
    December 8, 2012 at 6:29 am #

    This was delicious and now I finally know how to use lemongrass! I made it once and then thought it would be fun to make it as part of green curry. I used almost a can of coconut milk and some green curry paste. I wish I had some lime leaves…BTW, I live in Dubai but I’m from Seattle and coming across your website was a real find. Thanks!

    • December 8, 2012 at 8:17 am #

      Good deal, I’m glad we’ve got you up to speed on lemongrass now. Dubai must be an interesting place! Glad to have you as a regular on Herbivoracious now.

  13. jigna
    April 18, 2013 at 6:37 am #

    michael – thanks for the great recipe idea. i tried it last night. it looked yum, and tasted almost as just as yum :)

    i was a bit disappointed that i barely tasted the lemongrass and wondering if you could give us more specifics on how to make that happen.

    i used sesame oil to cook – it has a nice clean flavor.

    i also used low fat coconut milk for the rice – which was super, but i added a spoonful of sugar bc the milk was unsweetened. do you recommend any particular type of mile.

    as for your tips on getting a good char on the tofu – that worked well – thanks!

    • April 18, 2013 at 8:24 am #

      Hey Jigna – for the lemongrass, you should feel free to use more stalks of it if you want to amp up the flavor. Be sure to bruise it really well and mince it fine, as that is what releases the aromatic compounds. For coconut milk, I like any of the Thai brands. They will all have a preservative (usually sodium benzoate), but I avoid ones with any thickeners. I do prefer full fat myself, but the low fat can be ok.

  14. jigna
    April 18, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    hi michael – thanks for the speedy response and tips!

    btw – ever since i came upon your site from a google search for a lemongrass tofu recipe, i have been perusing through every inch of it for ideas – you’re very innovative and yummy – i’ll be sure to have licked the site clean in no time :)

    thanks again!

    ps – loved your post on amanda cohen’s cookbook as well as her post on you :)

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