That is quite an introduction, if I do say so myself.
I assure you it’s well deserved. Light and clean, bursting with flavours and textures. Subtle, sultry, mildly numbing peppery notes from the Schezwan peppercorns, a spicy warmth from the star anise that has been tossing in the pan, the crisp, vibrant barely blanched vegetables, the soft, soft noodles- and as you bite into the tofu- the perfect seasoned crunch encasing that billowing creaminess. Not to forget that all encompassing ginger…so warming, so lovingly bringing all the flavours to a beautiful crescendo!
OK so I may be getting slightly carried away!
…I’m obviously just trying to fit in with the whole kitsch Valentine’s mood thing….There is no coincedence that I chose to use red bell peppers!
Regardless, It doesn’t matter what day it is. You should make this.
It’s so easy, so versatile, so light, so nutritious, so sexy. Did I mention how mind blowing-ly tasty it is too???
Those that know me will know that my soft spot when it comes to creating dishes lies in the sweet arena. This is what I am known for and why I started a business doing just that.
The truth is, just as I love eating everything and trying new things. I love cooking them too.
Asian food, Chinese inspired in particular has been a part of my repertoire for as long as I can remember. I remember the first time I made Chicken and Sweetcorn soup. My sister never forgets it.
Chinese food, much like most Indian food is very quick to prepare. Once you get the hang of preparing the ingredients quickly, the time from stove to table can be super fast making both cuisines great for when you want a delicious flavour packed meal when you’re short on time.
There are 5 larder items that I make sure I am always stocked up on that I use in a lot of my Far East Asian cooking : good soya sauce, toasted sesame oil, Shaoxing rice wine, Mirin and good fish sauce. If you have these things in your cupboard, you’re set.
In the fridge, there are only really 2 ingredients that I make sure I always have on hand: fresh ginger and fresh garlic. I pretty much feel wrong if I don’t have them in the fridge on so many levels!!
This may or may not surprise you, but I do not use these two ingredients just for cooking purposes!
Apart from being a flavour I use in almost all cuisines, freshly chopped Garlic cloves (in tiny pieces and swallowed like pills with luke warm water) is my go to medicine for any cold, flu, sore throat or infection symptoms. I kid you not. It kills whatever alien is inside me EVERY TIME. :)
The same can be said for the mighty Ginger. With that intensely warm calming flavour, it’s also packed full of zinc. I regularly use this in my fresh juice concoctions…apple, carrot, ginger and celery is delicious! It is also great to have grated in hot water if either your stomach or throat is feeling worse for wear.
OK enough of my alternative medical advice.
I will say that fresh tastes best, but if you struggle to keep fresh garlic and ginger in your fridge and my alternative medical uses didn’t entice you!, a lot of ethnic supermarkets and many of the larger supermarkets in the UK sell frozen grated ginger and garlic in ice cube sizes. You can substitute a couple of cubes of ginger and a couple of cubes of garlic straight from the freezer into the pan for the recipe below. Alternatively, buy some fresh and make your own freezer cubes!
Sexy Spiced ‘n ‘Ginger-ed Veg, Rice Noodles & Crispy Tofu
Serves 4 with leftovers
The order to cook this in: Prep veg, cook tofu, cook rice noodles, cook veg. Assemble.
For crispy tofu with the perfect crunch:
- I pack of firm tofu, such a Cauldron in the UK available in almost all supermarkets
- 3-4 tbs of rice flour
- 1 tsp of red chilli flakes (adjust to taste)
- enough salt and pepper to season the flour which will coat the tofu
- enough groundnut/canola/rapeseed oil or other vegetable oil to shallow fry the tofu pieces
- To make sure these stay warm and super crunchy, I recommend cooking these after you have prepared the veg for the noodles, below.
- Wash and gently squeeze the tofu and cut into good sized chunks- you don’t want the pieces too small.
- Heat the oil in a shallow frying pan.
- Mix the flour and chilli and seasoning and coat each chunk well.
- When the oil is hot enough lower the tofu pieces gently into the oil. Cook on a medium/high heat, turning once.
- Cook until golden brown on all sides, drain on some paper towels and keep ready for serving.
For the sexiest noodles ever: :)
- 1 Pack of rice noodle sticks (about 200 g)
- 1/2 a head of cabbage finely shredded. I used savoy because it looks pretty, but sweetheart would work too (also I know in the picture my shredding doesn’t look very fine, but I corrected that!)
- 2 medium sized red bell peppers sliced length ways
- 1 good handful of dried mushroom rehydrated in hot water. I have a large jar of Belazu Finest Dried Woodland Mushrooms (cepes, yellow boletes oyster, shiitake) that always comes in handy for many dishes.
- 1 tennis ball sized white onion sliced finely length ways
- 3-5 cloves of garlic sliced finely
- 2 inches of ginger sliced into fine matchsticks
- 1 tsp of red chili flakes
- 4-6 tbsp of Shao Xing rice wine
- 2 tsp of toasted sesame oil
- 2-3 tbsp of good quality soy sauce (or to taste)
- 1 star anise
- 6-8 Schezwan peppercorns
- 2 tbs of groundnut/canola/rapeseed/flavourless coconut or other flavourless oil
- 2 tbsp of black and/or white sesame seeds
- Seasoning to taste
- Wash and prepare all the veg as instructed above and have it ready to use. This is going to all happen quick and you need everything to hand!
- Cook the rice noodles with salt according to the pack instructions or until the are soft, but still have a slight bite. You don’t want over done noodles! If you want when they are draining, you can add a couple tsps of oil to stop them sticking, but I don’t do this if I’m working quickly…it’s unnecessary extra fat if you’re keeping this healthy. Save some of the cooking liquid- 1/4 cup or so.
- Heat a large wide based pan/or wok with the flavourless oil you are using until smoking.
- Add the ginger, star anise, and peppercorns quickly.
- Then add the onions and stir well for 20 seconds.
- Now add the garlic. As the heat is very hot it is vital to stir quick so you don’t get that burnt bitter garlic flavour. A little colour is ok though :)
- Next add the mushrooms and stir. It will seem like things are starting to stick in the pan, but it’s ok!
- Next add the rice wine and soy and red chilli flakes. Stir well.
- Finally toss the cabbage and red pepper with the other veg and put a lid on for 1 1/2 mins.
- Switch off the heat and take the lid off and check for seasoning and toss in the rice noodles with a bit of the cooking liquid from the noodle pan. Mix well and remove the star anise.
- Place the crispy tofu on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds!
A delicious, sexy nutritious noodle dish in minutes!
Of course with most of my recipes, you can change up the vegetable selection to your desire. Use whatever you have on hand! I have done this with tender-stem broccoli, fresh mushrooms and spinach before and it was just as delicious! Also, this dish is pretty healthy on most fronts, but if you want to cut down on the cooking time even more and omit some of the calories, you can skip crispy tofu and instead chunk it and marinate it in a little soy, rice wine, chilli flakes and pepper while you’re cooking the noodles! Make sure you do make it again with the crispy tofu though; that super rice flour crunch is worth the calories as a treat!