14 June 2013

I wanted to go to Asia but all I got was some peas...

My friends recently toured Southeast Asia and posted some great photos of delicious-looking food and fun times every step of the way.  Around the same time, I started noticing all the newly available fresh produce at my local hippy-dippy natural food store, and the beautiful sugar snap peas, combined with my mild jealousy towards my friends eating their hearts out in Singapore, yielded this recipe. You can make a lot of substitutions here--change the noodles, the veggies, the fresh herbs, trade the tofu for meat (the marinade works just as well).  But don't skip the mayonnaise, which I know sounds insane, but it is oh-so-good.  If you do and I find out, I will physically fight you.

Creamy Asian Noodle Bowl

Serves 4

½ block extra firm tofu
Tofu marinade:
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Peanut oil for frying
2 packages instant ramen noodles
8 dried shitake mushrooms, broken into small pieces
6 dried Thai red chili peppers, whole
¼ red onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces on the bias
1 small red pepper, cut into similar-sized pieces
¼ cup mayonnaise
1/8 cup rice vinegar
¼ teaspoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Prepare ahead: press the tofu until most water is release, about 30 minutes.  Combine all marinade ingredients in a small container.  Cut the pressed tofu into bite-sized pieces and place in the marinade, shaking or stirring gently to coat evenly.  You can leave this on the counter and occasionally stir it while you chop your vegetables and cook.

In a medium saucepan, heat enough water to cook the noodles along with one of the ramen seasoning packets (I always get “Oriental Flavor”).  When the water comes to a boil, throw in the mushrooms and noodles and cook until done.  While you are doing this, steam the sugar snap peas and bell pepper; this can be done in a steamer above the cooking noodle if you have one, or in a separate pot if you don’t.

Meanwhile, heat about 2 teaspoons of peanut oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Saut√© the dried peppers, onion, and garlic until soft and fragrant.  Scrape into a small bowl and wipe excess oil off the side of the pan.  Return pan to medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of peanut oil, and when it smokes, add the marinated tofu.  (Keep any excess marinade for the end.) The liquid from the marinade will cause a lot of spitting, so I remove the pan from the heat in order to do this, then put it back on the burner.  Cook tofu until browned on each side, flipping once in the middle.

When the tofu is golden on both sides, lower heat to medium low.  Stir in the steamed vegetables, cooked noodles with mushrooms, and any remaining marinade form the tofu.  In the small bowl with the onions and garlic, add the mayonnaise, vinegar, fish sauce, and cilantro.  Stir to combine, then stir into the noodle mixture in the pan.  Heat through and serve with fresh lime wedges and Ponzu sauce.