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Friday, April 24, 2020

Đậu sốt cà chua (Fried Tofu & Tomato) | A Recipe from Queenie Quynh Nguyen

 This spring, Interfaith Philadelphia is sharing stories and recipes from across the region. Today's vegetarian recipe comes from Queenie Quynh Nguyen. Do you have a recipe or a story you'd like to share? Email Liz Royer at

Here’s a dish I enjoyed a lot growing up. It’s a very simple fried tofu and tomato dish (đậu sốt cà chua) that is one of my favorite comfort foods! 

Coming from a Vietnamese Buddhist family, my mom and I usually cook vegetarian dishes together on the new moon and full moon each month. We offer these dishes first to the Buddha and our ancestors, who reside on the altar. This fried tofu and tomato dish is always our significant spiritual dish, and it is a good source of protein for a vegetarian diet. 

  • 1 package of extra firm tofu (or fried tofu if you have access to it)
  • Oil for frying (unless you have fried tofu)
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil 
  • 1 shallot, diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 heaping tbsp minced garlic (about 3-4 cloves)
  • 3 fresh tomatoes (cut into 6-8 even pieces each tomato) 
  • 1 tbsp Maggi seasoning (tamari is fine)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Green onion for garnish
  1. Cut tofu into your desired shapes. I chose triangles, which yielded about 16 pieces of tofu. You want them to be about ¾ inch thick (or ~2 cm) so that when you fry them, there’s still some tender tofu to bite into.
  2. Heat a pot of oil. Pat each slice of tofu as dry as you can before slipping them into the oil. Fry until a nice, uniform, golden crust is formed and let drain on some paper towel. Once all tofu is fried, set aside.
  3. In a pot, cook diced shallot with oil over medium heat until softened and translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
  4. Add tomatoes to the pot and add maggi seasoning and sugar. Lower heat to a steady simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down a bit and the excess water has evaporated. You’ll have some of the tomato juices, but you don’t want it to be soupy.
  5. Depending on how you like your tofu, you can pour this finished sauce over your fried tofu OR you can add the tofu to the pot, and cook the tofu in it to absorb some of the tomato flavour. Both are delicious; it just depends on your preference! 
We usually add a half cup of water, bring it all to boil, and simmer the tofu in the sauce for 5 – 7 minutes, since we like the taste of the sauce deep inside the tofu. 
  1. Serve with steamed rice and garnish with slivered green onions!
** Ingredients and Instructions are from with my personal notes and some adjustments.

Friday, April 17, 2020

A Socially Distant Passover | Anneke Kat

This spring, Interfaith Philadelphia is sharing stories and recipes from across the region. Today's post about making Passover recipes in the time of coronavirus comes from Anneke Kat. Do you have a recipe or a story you'd like to share? Email Liz Royer at

I often feel that there’s a myth that food needs to be homemade to be special. In my family we have a range of cooking abilities and patience for crafting everything from scratch. There are some foods that are sacred to our holiday gatherings which are homemade (cue my mom and aunt’s brisket recipes or my mom’s apple cake) and then there are things we get a little help with (frozen latkes or matzo ball mix from a box). I think those foods are just as important. They can still embody all of our positive memories and associations of togetherness, regardless of the fact that they weren’t created in our own kitchens. 

This year, while observing Passover during the COVID-19 pandemic, I made do with what I had available around the house and avoided going to the store to procure anything extra. I brought out the matzo ball mix and some canned veggie broth and made matzo ball soup. Next I moved on to making my favorite Passover dish, the charoset. This dish is meant represent the mortar used by the Jewish people when they were enslaved in Egypt. There are many ways to make this dish, but my family makes a version with apples, walnuts, sweet red wine, and spices. This year I set about making the charoset, and found I had a small amount of sweet red wine, a few apples, and some spices, but no walnuts! So I spend a great deal of time picking out some pistachios from a bag of trail mix I found in the back of the pantry. I made do, and it was delicious! Post ImagePost Image

This year, there was something particularly meaningful in the ritual of making and eating these goods. Although some of my family was able to gather on Zoom, we were not able to have our yearly family Seder at my aunt and uncle’s house in the beautiful farmland of Pennsylvania. Experiencing these foods made me feel close to everyone I couldn’t be near. I also reflected on the generations of Jews who came before me, who strove to observe their holidays under persecution or duress. I felt deeply connected to the past and proud of myself for having been able to create the familiar flavors of my family gatherings - something homemade and something from a box - and it was perfect! 

Here are some of our favorite non-homemade Jewish foods:
Here is an example of an apple and walnut charoset recipe: 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

From the Same Source | Margaret Somerville

This spring, Interfaith Philadelphia is sharing stories and recipes from across the region. Today's post about sourdough bread comes from Rev. Margaret Somerville. Do you have a recipe or a story you'd like to share? Email Liz Royer at

I started to get anxious when there was no yeast left on the grocery store shelves. I had been to three stores. Sharing my panic that I would not be able to bake fresh bread in isolation, I received a message from a friend who had a sourdough starter. I could pick up a jar from her mailbox when she divided her starter the next day.

Kneading the bread dough is one of my spiritual practices, learned from a Jewish friend, who kneads her prayers into her challah. Into my first sourdough loaf, I kneaded gratitude for my friend who shared her starter, for the connection, for my children quarantined with me who would share this loaf, for my children quarantined in their own home, for those with whom I could not share this loaf today but with whom I would connect in the new world of virtual classrooms and worship services. The loaf rose with my concern for those without bread that day, for those without connection.

One of the youth in my congregation has become a baker as well. I offered to share my starter with her, and her mom drove her over to pick up the jar from my mailbox. And then the idea - what if we passed this starter around our congregation, leaving it on doorsteps, leaving baked loaves for those who don’t feel comfortable baking it themselves? Could we strengthen our connection by sharing of the same bread?

As Holy Week approaches, I am facing the loss of the familiar setting of my favorite service of the church year, Maundy Thursday. This is a service that is literally about communion with others, the celebration of the last supper of Jesus, when he broke bread at table with his disciples, in preparation for passing his ministry onto them, that they would find ways to connect with people the way he had.

What will it be like to celebrate by breaking bread at the table when the table is not there, when we can’t pass the loaf to one another? But perhaps with our shared sourdough starter, what we can do is eat of the same bread. Our loaves in our individual homes will have come from the same source. And perhaps as we daily divide our starters in our own homes and leave them in jars, in mailboxes, and on doorsteps, this bread will be shared from congregation to congregation as well, from one faith tradition to another. Perhaps this sourdough starter will be a reminder that we are all fed from the same source.

We do this is remembrance of one who came in the name of love and light to honor all those who have been created from the same source of love and light.