Sweet and Spicy Tofu and Soba Noodles and Renewed January Enthusiasm

 Watching: Cooked on Netflix

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want the recipe: Sweet and Spicy Tofu with Soba Noodles from New York Times Cooking (might be paywalled so copied below as well. I’m not sure if that’s legal but given about three people read this blog I hope it’s OK?).

Star Rating: FIVE DELICIOUS STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

It’s been a while. Like a super long time. In 2018 year I set myself the goal of cooking 52 new recipes and writing about them. I didn’t get even close, writing up only 14 new recipes (even though I definitely cooked more than that – but nowhere near 52) and 16 in total. In 2019 I did no writing at all. So why take it up again? The most useful benefit I found of having written about what I’ve cooked is that I can easily find the recipe again, and I have notes on what I changed – which is the most important part as I normally make a few tweaks and fail to remember them the next time around.

So onto the food. This recipe was wonderful and has opened my eyes to the idea of combining colder salad vegetables with a hot base. The noodles have a real kick to them because of the black pepper, and this touch of spice pairs nicely with the cold cucumbers and radish. You could absolutely add broccoli, spinach, shredded carrot or zucchini, mushrooms, snow peas, or any number of other veggies if you wanted to mix it up too – the noodle base would match with most ingredients.

I thought I hadn’t changed much this time, but it turns out there were a couple of small tweaks. I doubled the amount of garlic, because two cloves is basically no garlic at all, and I do this with everything I cook. I also halved the oil (another common adjustment), and there was still plenty for both cooking the tofu and coating the noodles. I did all the vegetable prep ahead of time (not my normal process, but slicing green onions into matchsticks is very time consuming) and pressed the tofu for about 20 minutes to remove a bunch of the water so it would brown better. I also finished off the bowl with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds because they never go astray.

One change I would make next time is to season the tofu before frying. It could have handled a little bit more of something – tofu being the flavour void that it can be. The comments on the recipe suggested mixing the noodles in 3/4 of the sauce and then coating the tofu in the sauce separately as it was easier (and could potentially address the above issue), but mixing them both to get them evenly coated wasn’t too difficult. YMMV.

This comes highly recommended, and I give it bonus points because you can also eat it at room temperature making the leftovers good for lunch.

Sweet and Spicy Tofu With Soba Noodles

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ½ (14-ounce) packages firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 (8-ounce) package all-buckwheat soba noodles
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 small bunch green onions, white and green parts separated, cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  •  cup soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  •  Pinch of red-pepper flakes
  • 4 mini or 1 large, thin-skinned cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  •  Handful of cilantro leaves, for serving
  • 1 lime, cut in wedges, for serving

PREPARATION

  1. Drain the tofu in a colander, or dry on paper-towel lined plate while you prep the remaining ingredients, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil for the soba noodles.
  2. Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil. When the oil shimmers, add the tofu in a single layer, in batches if needed and cook until golden on all sides, turning as needed when the tofu releases easily from the pan, about 8 to 10 minutes total. Lift the tofu out of the pan with a spatula and transfer to a new paper-towel-lined plate.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the soba in boiling water for 5 to 8 minutes (or according to package directions), until just al dente, stirring frequently. Drain and rinse in cold water until the noodles no longer feel sticky.
  4. Add garlic, ginger and whites of the onions to the skillet, along with the remaining tablespoon sesame oil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the oil is fragrant, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.
  5. Add cooked and drained soba noodles to the pan, along with soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, red pepper and reserved green onions; toss together until the noodles are coated. Gently toss in the tofu until all the pieces are covered in the sauce.
  6. Remove from the heat, and sprinkle cucumber, radish and cilantro on top. Serve warm or at room temperature, with lime.

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