Szechuan-style noodles with crumbled tofu and vegetables

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Ah, “crumbled tofu” – giving a food creation a name makes it sound so intentional.  Basically I bought a different brand of tofu which was cheaper and it was impossible to cut and just crumbled up.  I didn’t want to waste it so I fried it anyway and to my surprise, it was really nice.  All the little tofu crumbs went really crispy and I sold it to Dave as “tofu mince” 😉 .

The stir-fry itself was an attempt to recreate something that Dave used to cook all the time after we got back from our trip to China a few years ago (which in turn were an attempt to recreate something he ate there).  He absolutely loves Szechuan peppercorns and spicy stir-fry dishes made with the fiery little dried chillies we bought at the Chines supermarket (we bought a massive pack literally years ago and have never needed to buy more as it lasts so long, don’t know where you get them from if you don’t have a Chinese supermarket).  The ones he used to make were veggie for me, with some pork belly added on top for him and his brother.  The veg and noodle base was spicy enough, but he used to add loads of chilli to the pork belly so that their version was almost inedible.

With this in mind, I set out to create something really spicy, but I maybe succeeded too well – I could only eat it with the aid of two glasses of milk (but hey, extra protein for this veggie meal) and Dave, whose taste buds have come alive after quitting smoking a few weeks ago, actually couldn’t finish it!  So proceed with caution if you don’t like fiery food.  I used two of the little whole dried chillies and next time would only use one.  If you’re using the easier-to-get-hold-of dried chilli flakes, you might need to experiment for a bit to see how much you need; I’d start with a teaspoon and work from there.

I didn’t have many of the ingredients the recipe called for (black bean paste, sesame puree) so I subbed in miso and peanut butter which worked well.  If you don’t have miso you can just leave it out – it adds a nice savoury taste but I wouldn’t buy it specially for this recipe (though I always have miso in because I ❤ miso soup and I also do a good honey miso salad dressing).

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Szechuan-style stirfry with crumbled tofu

  • 2 nests of egg noodles
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely sliced
  • big handful spring greens or other greens, finely sliced
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced
  • handful frozen or tinned sweetcorn (drained if tinned)
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1/2 block firm tofu, drained and pressed under a heavy board for at least 10 minutes (I use a book on top of my plastic chopping board), sliced or crumbled
  • 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1-2 small whole dried chillies (use two with caution) or substitute for a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp molasses (or sub for honey if you haven’t got any but don’t use quite as much)
  • 1 tsp miso paste
  • 1 tsp peanut butter
  • 1/4 tsp Chinese 5 spice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger (a small thumb-sized piece grated)
  • 1 tsp cornflour

Cook the noodles as per packet directions (i.e. boil for a few minutes until tender 😉 ), drain and set aside.

Crush the Szechuan peppercorns and chillies using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder (I toasted mine first but don’t think it made any difference).  Mix with the Chinese 5 spice, molasses or honey, miso, molasses, peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, cornflour and soy sauce.  Stir well to combine, taste and adjust if needed (i.e. if it’s not sweet enough, add more honey or a pinch sugar; add more soy sauce if you think it’s not salty enough etc).

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a deep-sided frying pan or wok to a medium-high heat and chuck in the tofu slices or crumbled up bits and stir fry for a few minutes.  Mine were sort of in slices to start and I think part of the reason it crumbled was I stirred too vigorously – tofu always sticks to the pan for me.  If you want to make it crumbly like mine, break up any bigger lumps of tofu with your wooden spoon and it’s done when it’s all golden.  Remove and season very well with salt and lots of black pepper (tofu is tasteless unless you add lots of flavour to it).

Add the rest of the oil to the wok and bring back up to a medium heat.  Add the vegetables and stir fry for several minutes until tender.  Add the garlic and ginger, stir fry for a further minute, then throw in the noodles, sauce and tofu.  Mix it all together and serve straight away, though I did have the remainder for lunch with half a raw pepper sliced into it and it was surprisingly nice as a cold salad too (and much less spicy for some reason).

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