Sometimes I arrive home from work after a day when I feel I’ve earnt my dollar (and then some) and given how close to work I live, there isn’t chance to wind down before dinner. We eat dinner offensively early in the Apple Chapel. On days like those, I find preparing vegetables for a quickly sautéed dish to be very therapeutic as I channel my racing thoughts into not chopping off a finger with my samurai sword of a chef’s knife! It is very effective I can tell you and I end up feeling refreshed and purged of work related stress as I sit down to chow down on a bowl full of soul food. This is my kind of soul food.
This dish has evolved from one in Bill Granger’s Everyday Asian and to be truthful, it isn’t that different but this is how I prefer to do it. I like my vegetables lightly stir fried and I add cubes of firm-ish tofu which I brown first in a hot pan with a light coating of oil. If I have some cooked chicken left over, Hungry Hubby gets that as he is of the opinion tofu is the spawn of Satan. I know many of you are too! As always, do as you please. Why not ring the changes with some cashew nut butter and roasted whole cashews instead?
As for the taste, this is where things really get interesting. The peanut butter really shines through and gives a tip of the hat to satay or gado gado style sauces. Dark soy gives saltiness and the tang comes from (wait for it) – lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. How’s that for an Asian-Italian fusion?! It is not without precedent – you will recall my Shimeji mushroom risotto also merges these two culinary giants to similar effect – a thoroughly delicious, addictive eat of a dinner. Try it, you won’t regret it.
- Rice noodles
- 100 g firm tofu
- 1 tbsp peanut oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 inch ginger
- 1 red chilli
- 200-300 g of veg of your choice*
- 1 small carrot julienned
- 2-3 spring onions sliced thinly on the diagonal
- 1-2 tbsp salted roasted peanuts crushed
- 3 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce**
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
Place two “nests” of rice noodles in a large bowl, covered in plenty of boiling water. Vermicelli or thicker strands are just fine, use your favourite. They will be dehydrated within 2-3 minutes, just stir well and drain when they are soft.
Prepare the sauce by whisking all the ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.
Prepare the garlic, ginger and red chilli – you could stick them in a mini blender if you like or just crush the cloves and then place all three on a chopping board and chop together until they are like small pieces of fragrant confetti. I chopped them separately for the blog photos but I tend to do it this way in the real world ;)
Preheat a large pan (I don’t have a wok) and spray or brush with oil lightly. Dry your tofu with kitchen roll and slice into inch long pieces about ¼ inch thick. Sear for a minute or two on each side until brown then transfer to the sauce bowl and coat well. Leave to one side for the moment.
Get the pan back on the heat, add the tablespoon of oil and toss in all your vegetables. If you need to, chop or slice them to similar sizes to ensure even cooking.
Add in the garlic, ginger and chilli and keep the heat high, stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
At this point, pop your drained noodles on warmed serving plates and share out the tofu – shake off most of the sauce it has been marinading in.
When blistered and slightly softened, tip in the remains of the sauce and add a splash of water from the kettle to ensure it doesn’t stick and the veg are well coated.
Share between the two plates and top with the raw carrot, spring onions and salted nuts. Eat immediately – although, if you are less greedy than me, you may have some leftovers and cold they would make a wonderful lunch the next day.
* = use a selection of vegetables, based on what you have or buy a couple of packs of baby veg. Use more or less as you like - I like having as much veg, if not more than the noodle component of my plate. Sugar snaps, green beans, baby corn, thin asparagus spears, mange tout all work very well. If using large carrots, courgettes, peppers and shallots or onions (another favourite combo of mine) these will obviously need preparing ahead to make them similar sizes to ensure even cooking.
** = if you use Tamari (and double check all the labels) this will be a gluten free meal.
I sometimes use salted cashews to finish the dish and cashew butter in the sauce to ring the changes.
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