It’s been awhile since I’ve done anything culinarily resourceful. Back in college, when I was craving a little bit of home away from home and grandmother’s and mom’s delicious home cooked dishes, I started experimenting a lot with Asian flavors. A lot of research and phone calls home helped get me on the right track to recreating some dishes from childhood. There were many successes and thankfully fewer failures.
One success was a recipe for wontons, a dish my family never really made but I still enjoyed when we went out to eat. I recently rediscovered the recipe and made a huge batch of them to freeze for a quick dinner when I’m too tired to make anything elaborate. In making them, I had some leftover filling and in an inspired moment threw this dish together.
It’s nothing original and in fact, it’s one of my favorite dishes growing up. The inspiration came not from the creation of this dish but from me putting two and two together and realizing that I now don’t have to call home for recipes but can attempt to make the flavors and textures of home just from memory. Mom and grandmother taught me well! Or, at least, fed me well.
My favorite thing about this recipe is the contrast between the sweet and sour tomato sauce and the spicy, meaty filling. As the tomato cooks down it develops a rich tangy flavor that complements the shrimp and pork. So comforting over a bowl of jasmine rice!
8 vine tomatoes, halved vertically and cored, seeds and flesh saved
1 pound ground pork (or any ground meat would do)
1 pound shrimp, deveined and shelled, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs of green onions, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon fish sauce, more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Oil for frying
Additional green onions and cilantro for garnish
1. Combine ground pork, shrimp, garlic, green onions, ginger, fish sauce, and pepper in a bowl.
2. Gently stuff tomato halves with mixture until just over the top.
3. Heat oil over medium heat. Place stuffed tomatoes onto the pan meat-side down. Fry until golden brown, about five minutes. Add tomato seeds and flesh. As the tomatoes cook down, the flesh will liquify and reduce into a rich sauce, season with fish sauce to taste.
4. Continue to flip tomatoes and to cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes until meat is cooked thoroughly, covered. Garnish with green onions, cilantro and pepper and serve over rice. Serves 4.
This recipe is made best with ground pork, which is more tender and juicy. Ground beef gets too tough and dry but would be an adequate substitute. My grandmother stuffs all different sorts of peppers when she makes this and the spiciness from the peppers seasons the sauce really well.
Traditional Vietnamese versions of this recipe calls for bean thread noodle or vermicelli and wood ear mushrooms which add a fantastic contrast of texture and flavor. I didn’t have any on hand but it is definitely worth hunting them down for this recipe!