Recipe - Vietnamese Stuffed Tomatoes (Cà Chua Nhồi Thịt)

There were several go-to dishes that I could count on eating every week or every other week when I was growing up. Though my ethnic background is Chinese, my cultural background is an odd mesh of Vietnamese, Chinese, and American. That really showed itself through in its food which I thought my whole childhood was Chinese food. Turns out, my mom cooked quite a lot of Vietnamese food! This dish of stuffed tomatoes, or cà chua nhồi thịt, seemed to be on the weekly rotation but I never minded. I had always had an affinity for tomatoes but when you mix it with something savory and baste it in itself, you have yourself a winner. It is most definitely comfort food and not something you'll likely be able to order off a restaurant menu even if you wish it were available. Because of its sauciness, I really recommend rice become a part of the meal with these red baskets of joy.

Step 1: Ingredients (yields 4 servings)

  • 3/4 lb ground pork
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 Tbsps fish sauce
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup wood ear fungus/mushroom, sliced and chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried bean thread vermicelli, chopped
  • 4-5 large tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • green onions, chopped (for garnish)
  • curry ketchup sauce, optional

Step 2: Prepping ingredients
To be honest, this dish doesn't take too much to put together. Reconstitute wood ear and vermicelli in warm water for 5-10 minutes before handling. Then, in a mixing bowl, combine pork, egg, peppers, fish sauce, chopped onion, wood ear, and vermicelli. Halve tomatoes width-wise and scoop out centers; keep the pulp and all the juices!

Step 3: Stuffing tomatoes
Pack pork mixture tightly into the tomato halves, pushing down to make sure it will stay inside the tomatoes when you work with them. Heat up a large skillet with some oil on medium heat. Place tomato halves stuffing side down and let them sweat. Once a nice crisp layer has formed, flip over and add reserved pulp with juices and sugar into the skillet. This liquid will help steam the pork bottoms to cook thoroughly. If you have extra pork mix, break it up and put it in with the sauce too.

Step 4: Finishing
Let the tomato juices reduce until thick; this will be the sauce itself. Alternatively, you can make my curry ketchup sauce to augment the sauce. You'll only need 2 Tbsps of the stuff. Serve tomatoes over rice with plenty of sauce and (if you'd like) green onions to garnish. Enjoy!

Photography by Duc Duong.