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Sesame Ginger Noodles with Tofu
Cliches are sometimes cliches for good reason. The combination of sesame and ginger in Japanese cooking is so tried-and-true that its absence is more noticeable than its presence. Add some soy sauce, rice vinegar, some form of sweetener, and a little heat, and you've got a delicious cliche. This magical mixture provides the much needed personality for otherwise bland tofu and noodles. Crisp carrots and sugarsnap peas make it a well-rounded meal. All together, the combination is definitely more than the sum of its parts. I like it hot or cold.
This recipe came from my sister, who is always looking for new ways to make tofu interesting. I can never get enough of her Thai vegetable curry, but this one is a close second. I've made it with udon noodles and soba noodles with great results in each case. It's hard to say which is better. In the pictures below, I'm using soba noodles. The sauce is really what makes this dish good. Both the noodles and the tofu absorb the ginger and liquid ingredients. Ginger is a fairly powerful flavour here—a little goes a long way. Try not to use more than an inch.
1 clove garlic
1" piece of ginger, peeled
1/4 tsp red chili pepper flakes
3 Tbl tamari (or soy) sauce
2 Tbl rice vinegar
2 tsp agave syrup (or honey)
2 tsp sesame oil
1 cup sesame seeds
2 medium carrots, peeled
1 cup sugarsnap peas
350 g (12 oz) extra-firm tofu, drained
227 g (8 oz) Japanese noodles (soba or udon)
1 Tbl + 1 Tbl canola oil
1 Tbl sesame oil
Glaze for Tofu
3 Tbl tamari (or soy) sauce
1 Tbl agave syrup (or honey)
1 tsp rice vinegar
Start by toasting the sesame seeds in a 400 °F oven for five minutes or so until just golden (watch carefully—they burn fast).
Next, let's make the sauce to give the flavours time to get to know eachother while you're making everything else.
If you have a mortar and pestle, slice up the garlic and ginger. (If you don't have a mortar and pestle, finely mince the garlic with 1/4 tsp salt and grate the peeled ginger with a grater.)
Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to the mortar and pestle with 1/4 tsp salt and pulverize them.
Combine the contents of the mortar and pestle with the other sauce ingredients in a bowl, mix well and set aside.
Chop the carrots in to 1-2" matchsticks.
Trim the ends off the sugarsnap peas and peel the string from the inner seam. Chop each pea into bite-sized pieces.
Put a pot of water on to boil for the noodles.
Slice the tofu into bite-sized triangles.
Spread the toasted sesame seeds on a plate.
Press each piece of tofu firmly into the sesame seeds to coat.
By now, the water should be boiling. Break the noodles into 4" pieces and cook according to package directions. I find I have to watch the noodles carefully because they are usually done before the package says they will be. When they are done, drain them in a collander and rinse them under cold water.
Add 1 Tbl canola oil and 1 Tbl sesame oil to a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, arrange tofu and fry.
Mix the glaze ingredients (tamari sauce, rice vinegar and agave syrup) in a bowl. After a few minutes of frying, add the contents of the bowl to the bottom of the pan.
After about 5 minutes, carefully flip the tofu pieces and fry for 5 minutes more.
Remove the tofu and reserve on a plate. We'll be adding it back at the very end.
Add remaining 1 Tbl canola oil to pan.
Add the carrots to the pan and stir fry briefly. They should stay crisp.
Next, add the sugarsnap peas.
Add the strained noodles to the frying pan. Stir fry to combine.
Stir up the sauce that you made at the beginning and add to the frying pan. Mix everything well. Continue stir frying until most of the sauce has evaporated.
Add the tofu back to the frying pan and carefully fold the tofu pieces in with the other ingredients. Cook until warmed through. Sprinkle remaining toasted sesame seeds to taste.
And you're done!
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Posted: Sunday, November 23, 2014