Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Spicy Lime Slurping Noodles

A few weeks ago, I saw a very exciting post on my facebook news feed: “Have your vegan recipe published!” Chef Christy Morgan, friend to vegan superstar Alicia Silverstone, was requesting recipes for a Southeast Asian vegan cookbook she’s currently working on. The only stipulations were that it be an original dish inspired by the food of Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysian, Laos. It seemed like a spectacular opportunity, and a fun challenge. As I said last week, I have been taking tentative steps toward developing my own dishes without recipes, and I am pleased to report that my first attempt was a huge success!

This dish was inspired by the flavors and techniques of Malaysia; the bright tartness of lime, and the heat of red chiles. Tender and chewy noodles accompanied by crisp vegetables immersed in a bright and savory broth. So called “slurping” noodles because you won’t be able to resist slurping up this broth, even after all the noodles are gone!

Spicy Lime Slurping Noodles

2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce (add more if you want it spicier)
1/4 cup shoyu
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
2” of ginger, grated or chopped finely
2 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 red bell pepper
4-5 heads of baby bok choy
1 pound whole wheat noodles (I used linguine, but you could use soba or rice noodles)
3 green onions
1/2 cup cilantro
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 package extra firm tofu (15 ounces)
Crushed peanuts for garnish

Prepare the broth. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the chili-garlic sauce, shoyu, lemon juice, lime juice, and ginger. Pulse until smooth and thoroughly mixed. Pour the mixture into a small saucepan. Add the vegetable stock and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 5 minutes, until all the flavors have combined.

Prepare the vegetables. Remove the very end of each head of bok choy, separating the leaves, then rinsing thoroughly. Leave the very center of each bok choy intact. Seed and de-rib the bell pepper, then slice into 1/4” strips. Slice each strip in half. Slice the green onion into 1/4” circles, using both the white and green parts. Remove the cilantro leaves from the stems, then finely chop the stems.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to their individual instructions. Drain and set aside.

Prepare the tofu. Drain the tofu, then press firmly with paper towels to remove the excess water. Slice the tofu into 1” slices, then cut each slice in half.  Heat 2 tablespoons of  vegetable oil in a large not non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Place the tofu in the pan, repeatedly pressing down on the tofu with a spatula to release some of the remaining water. Allow the tofu to brown until it comes up easily with a spatula. If it sticks, it’s not ready. Flip the tofu, and repeat on the other side. Transfer the tofu to a cutting board, and chop into 1” cubes. Place the tofu in the broth and return to a simmer.

Putting the whole dish together. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in the same sauté pan. Add the bok choy and bell pepper, and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Add the noodles to the vegetables, then pour the broth over the whole thing. Toss briefly, allowing the noodles to soak up some of the sauce. Serve the noodles with a generous portion of broth, and top with the cilantro and peanuts.

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