crispy tofu gyeo du with salad filling

I have promised myself to cook a new dish every weekend. While I was looking through the long list in my notebook marked ‘Must try’, I receive an email from my mother. It is a gentle reminder of a recipe she told me about some months back.

In Rangoon, there were many street-hawkers that passed through our street during the day selling an assortment of food. My mother remembers one particular woman who sold hand-mixed salad, let thote. Take out food came to your door in Burma! The woman would set up shop right on our door step and made the let thote to order.

The special thing that made this hawker memorable was her gyeo du (rocket in Burmese). There was a container of deep-fried tofu cut into triangles. She took one and a suitable recess was carved out, then stuffed with a mixture of white cabbage, papaya, crispy onion, dried shrimp floss, roasted chickpea powder dressed with tamarind juice, fish sauce and lime juice.

It sounds like a wonderful way to eat tofu which made me rush out to the shops to look for firm tofu. My mother ends her email, ‘remember use real tofu, not the fried ones form the Chinese supermarket.’


205g firm tofu, cut into 6 triangles
2 large shallots, thinly sliced lengthways
2 garlic cloves, sliced
50g white cabbage, finely shredded
1 teaspoon roasted chickpea powder
1 teaspoon dried shrimp, pounded into floss
handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
plenty of peanut oil for frying tofu


2 tablespoons tamarind juice
3 tablespoons garlic oil
1 lime, cut into wedges
chilli flakes & fish sauce

I find some extra-firm organic tofu which is ideal for this and cut into chunky triangles not unlike a doorstop. Pat the tofu with kitchen paper so it is completely dry then gently drop into a pan of hot oil. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon once they are evenly golden all over. Drain on kitchen paper and prepare the salad ingredients.

There is neither an unripe papaya nor a green mango at the local grocer so I will have to do without. Fortunately there was a gigantic white cabbage in my fruit and veg box this week which made me think I would be eating let thote soon enough. Finely slice the cabbage and shallots. Soak half of the shallots in water to reduce its bite. Fry the remaining in some oil until golden. Fry the garlic in the same oil. This will give the oil a rich garlic/shallot flavour and reserve for the dressing.

In a bowl, mix the cabbage, shallots, crispy shallots, crispy garlic, roasted chickpea powder, dried shrimp, coriander and tofu that has been cut out from the triangles. Toss with the dressing, tasting and adjusting until there is the right balance of flavours you desire. Generously stuff the tofu with the salad including any liquid left at the bottom of the bowl.

Makes: 6
Cooking time: 15 mins

Thanks Mum. What do you think of my gyeo du?

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  1. Mum on November 16, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    It looks delicious, well done. I remember eating this and when you take a bite, all the juices (probably tamarind and oil) come out. It’s great fun and tasty to eat.

  2. Thin2 on January 2, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    I don’t remember this one. Tofu is one of my favorite things to eat. BTW, is it considered a vegetable? Anyhow, I will be making it when my mother comes here. it looks delicious. I will probably make a spicy sauce to go with. 🙂

    • Cho on January 3, 2009 at 5:03 am

      Hi Thin Thin
      These tofu gyeo du must be a speciality of this particular street seller that comes through our neighbourhood. I haven’t found anyone else who has eaten this before!

      – Cho

  3. Mum on January 29, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    your brother remembers eating this back in Rangoon and while living in Exeter when I made it once or twice!

  4. Nong Nong on April 5, 2010 at 10:05 am

    No wonder Thin Thin used to talk about you and admire you on our facebook..I am a foodie too and like to cook so much ..but having your authentic way of cooking is the best..(I always like to change the traditional way) ..and call them my fusion food..I will make this as potluck for our school’s staffs’ party..Thanks so much..