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Food From Home

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Sample vegetarian delights from Vietnam at VN Tofu

By Tom Hanchett
Correspondent
Tom Hanchett
Tom Hanchett is staff historian at Levine Museum of the New South.

The ultimate comfort food in Vietnam? Fried tofu. And VN Tofu Food To Go, a new shop on South Boulevard, just might make you a fan.

Behind the counter you’ll often find Ninh Dang. He came to America as a 10-year-old in 1995 after his father served time in a Communist “re-education” camp. The family had sided with the U.S. during the Vietnam War.

“We were poor, just ate the crops we grew, meat only on special holidays,” Ninh, 27, recalls. Tofu was a daily dish, made from soybeans, high in protein. “Here in Charlotte, we couldn’t find tofu we liked. So we started making our own.”

Ninh and his older brother Cong run the shop, a mini-factory that mostly sells to Vietnamese restaurants and groceries. They buy soybeans directly from a local farmer, Baucom Farm & Milling in Monroe.

Behind a beaded curtain, glistening stainless steel machines whir and bubble. Soy beans are soaked, then boiled, then compressed to create basic white tofu. Next comes flavoring – mushrooms, pepper flakes and lemongrass are some favorites. Then frying to a light golden color, chewy on the outside and creamy inside.

You can buy it by the piece. Or the Dang family will make up dishes to go. A picture menu shows vegetarian versions of familiar Vietnamese entrées: stir-fries, curries, tom-yum soup, fried rice. Yellow pancake, a thin and crispy crepe stuffed with vegetables and fried tofu, is a stand-out.

One dish that many American diners may not have encountered is tofu pudding. The delicate dessert is topped with house-made ginger sauce – a sweet, silky treat.

VN TOFU FOOD TO GO

Hours: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, except closed Thursdays

Where: 6823-A South Blvd. (between Archdale Drive and East Arrowood Road)

Contact: 704-919-1003

Tom Hanchett is staff historian at Levine Museum of the New South: thanchett@museumofthenewsouth.org. Don’t miss the Food From Home section of the museum’s "Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers" exhibit.
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