Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rice Noodle in Tofu-Bokchoy-Tomato, a stir-fry



Our good friends are planning a fantastic trip to Vietnam in a few weeks (without me!) and I got to hone in on the itinerary details of the trip. I'm not the jealous type (well, maybe a teensy bit here) and am perfectly happy vicariously anticipating the thrill of it all. I can't WAIT (for them to go)!

I had two of the lucky ducks, Ruth and Zack, over to tell me more of the awesome logistical info (like how they are bringing their bike seat saddles for all the biking they're gonna do!). In honor of their trip, I made the following for lunch: (1) Porridge with tilapia in a ginger broth, (2) Caramel fish, (3) 5-spice chicken and (4) Fried rice noodles with tofu, bokchoy and mushrooms.
  
If you've witnessed me (frantic) in the kitchen, you know how utterly daunting this recipe-diary thing is for me. To not confuse us/me, in this post we will focus on just #3: the Tofu Fried Rice Noodle Dish. Here's a shot of the finished dish below, from left to right: Mushrooms, Rice Noodle in Tofu-Bokchoy-Tomato, then more Bokchoy next to it. Finish with Garnish: Scallion, Shallot and Black Sesame. This is SO good, but could be a bit laborious (and SO worth it!)... Looks pretty wordy (just an fyi).
**Rice Noodle in
Tofu-Bokchoy-Tomato**
   
Oil - enough to coat the pan a few times - about 3-4 T
salt, sugar, pepper
3 T vegetarian stir-fry sauce
4 tsp chopped garlic
4 tsp (or more) ginger, julienne (cut into long thin strips)
4 T shallot, chop
1 bunch scallion, chop, 1 cup
bokchoy, about a shoebox full, cut into 2-4" pieces (will shrink)
fresh mushrooms, 5-7 cups, cut into same-size 1" pieces (will shrink)
fried tofu, 2 cups, cut into bite-size 1-2" pieces
2 small tomatoes cut into quarters
1 package of fresh rice noodles, rolled (in fridge section at Tay-do Market, SLC)
1-2 T of black or toasted sesame seeds
   
This is the Vegetarian Stir-Fry Sauce, made by Lee Kum Kee, sold at most grocery stores and all Asian markets.

Cook the BOKCHOY:
     (1) Heat a large pan coated in Oil, add the pieces of bokchoy. Remember the bokchoy will shrink and leave bokchoy juice! We want to sear it, let it "sweat," not "caramelize" (too soft). Add  1T Vegetarian Stir-fry Sauce, 1 tsp garlic, 2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt (or more to taste), 1/4 tsp pepper (or more to taste).
     (2) Let it sear on High for 1-2 minutes. Move all the items around once, mix/toss/stir. Cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, still on High Heat. Transfer to a platter, reserving/saving 2/3 space for the other 2 items we are going to cook (the mushrooms and noodles).
   
Cook the MUSHROOMS:
     (1) Heat a large pan coated in Oil. (Same as above, but no ginger.)  Remember the mushrooms will shrink and leave mushroom juice! Allow the tips to sear/burn a bit for extra nutty flavor. Add 1/2T Vegetarian Stir-Fry Sauce, 1 tsp garlic, 1/4 tsp sugar, pinch of salt (or more for taste), 1/4 tsp pepper (or more for taste).
     (2) Let sear on High for 1-2 minutes. Move/mix/toss/stir all the items around once. If you move it around too much or leave it cooking for too long, the mushrooms will get to soft and mushy. Let cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, still on High Heat. Transfer to platter with the Bokchoy, leaving 1/3 space (for the Rice Noodles).
   
Cook the RICE NOODLES:
     (1) The fresh rice noodles come cold/hard (from the refrigerator). Steam/microwave (1-2 min) the noodles to soften. Not sure if heating the noodles is necessary, but I do it out of habit. Cut the long rolled rice noodles into 1" pieces. 
     (2) Heat a pan coated in oil. Add the Noodle 1" pieces, 2 T chopped shallot, 2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp garlic, 1/4 tsp of sugar, pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper, 1 T Vegetarian Stir-fry Sauce, 2 cups of cut fried tofu. Move/mix/toss/stir around the items once. Let sear for another 1-3 minutes. Use a spatula or chopsticks to separate and leave some room between as many pieces as you can. Allow the sides of the noodles to turn crisp and chewy golden.
     (3) Add the tomato last for color and some tang. If you add tomato too early it will get soggy.
     (4) Add a few pieces of the cooked bokchoy for color and substance. Toss on High Heat for 30 seconds. Transfer to the platter with the Mushrooms and Bokchoy. 
   
Finish off, the GARNISH:
     (1) In a small pan coated with Oil, add 2 T shallots, 1 tsp garlic, a pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt and some fresh pepper. When the shallots are soft and the garlic is light golden (not dark brown and not black!), pour mixture on top of the entire dish of Mushrooms, Noodles, Bokchoy.
     (2) Next, add a generous amount to chopped scallion over everything.
     (3) Lastly, sprinkle 1-2 T of black or toasted sesame seeds over everything. Serve immediately!
  
Prep pix: 
Lots of knife action, so get out cutting boards and your favorite SHARP knife. Here we go on a photo tour with some commentary:
   
Ginger - Get a generous chunk. Peel the outside, slice against the grain - julienne. Set aside. With similar characteristics to garlic, it is a magical root with magical flavors (can't be substituted!). You can store extra cut ginger in a sealed container (or zip-lock bag) for use within a week. Here we will use 4 teaspoons.
Scallion - Rinse, slice thin both white and green parts (not too thin; want texture and soft crunch). Set aside. About 1 cup.
Garlic - Smash, peel, chop into medium chunks. Set aside. About 4 teaspoons.
Shallot (or easy substitute of sweet white onion) - Peel, slice, chop. Set aside. About 4 tablespoons.
Bokchoy - Eliminate dirt and sneaky bugs between stalks. Cut up the bokchoy into large chunks, both white and green parts. Fill up a tub of cold water, rinse and let float, rinse again. Gp away stubborn bugs! Gorgeous and crisp.
(1) Heat a large pan coated in Oil, add the pieces of bokchoy. Remember the bokchoy will shrink and leave bokchoy juice! We want to sear it, let it "sweat," not "caramelize" (too soft). Add  1T Vegetarian Stir-fry Sauce, 1 tsp garlic, 2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt (or more to taste), 1/4 tsp pepper (or more to taste).
(2) Let it sear on High for 1-2 minutes. Move all the items around once, mix/toss/stir. Cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, still on High Heat. Transfer to a platter, reserving/saving 2/3 space for the other 2 items we are going to cook (the mushrooms and noodles).

Mushrooms - If you hate mushrooms, it is likely that, early on, you were probably unwillingly forced to consume CANNED mushrooms (a pity, ew!). Fresh mushrooms have a chewy nutty flavor and texture like nothing else, delicious. I used 3 types of FRESH mushrooms from Tay-do in Salt Lake. Wipe off dirt. Cut them into relatively same size pieces. Set aside.







(1) Heat a large pan coated in Oil. (Same as above, but no ginger.)  Remember the mushrooms will shrink and leave mushroom juice! Allow the tips to sear/burn a bit for extra nutty flavor. Add 1/2T Vegetarian Stir-Fry Sauce, 1 tsp garlic, 1/4 tsp sugar, pinch of salt (or more for taste), 1/4 tsp pepper (or more for taste).
(2) Let sear on High for 1-2 minutes. Move/mix/toss/stir all the items around once. If you move it around too much or leave it cooking for too long, the mushrooms will get to soft and mushy. Let cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, still on High Heat. Transfer to platter with the Bokchoy, leaving 1/3 space (for the Rice Noodles).





Rice Noodles - At Tay-do, they sell fresh rice noodles in the fridge section with all the other fresh noodles (vs the dry noodles you have to boil and strain). I prefer to buy them fresh - one less step. Since they are hard from being in the fridge, you steam them (or use the controversial microwave) to heat/soften the noodles. Cut into 1" segments.
(1) The fresh rice noodles come cold/hard (from the refrigerator). Steam/microwave (1-2 min) the noodles to soften. Not sure if heating the noodles is necessary, but I do it out of habit. Cut the long rolled rice noodles into 1" pieces.
Since I hate deep-frying at home and prefer the chewy texture of fried tofu (versus unfried tofu which is dense, cold and blah), I buy it fried-to-order at Tay-do's take-out counter. Take these huge triangles, pic below, and cut them into thirds for the rice noodle stir-fry.
(2) Heat a pan coated in oil. Add the Noodle 1" pieces, 2 T chopped shallot, 2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp garlic, 1/4 tsp of sugar, pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper, 1 T Vegetarian Stir-fry Sauce, 2 cups of cut fried tofu. Move/mix/toss/stir around the items once. Let sear for another 1-3 minutes. Use a spatula or chopsticks to separate and leave some room between as many pieces as you can. Allow the sides of the noodles to turn crisp and chewy golden.




(3) Add the tomato last for color and some tang. If you add tomato too early it will get soggy.
(4) Add a few pieces of the cooked bokchoy for color and substance. Toss on High Heat for 30 seconds. Transfer to the platter with the Mushrooms and Bokchoy.


Finish OFF, the garnish:
(1) In a small pan coated with Oil, add 2 T shallots, 1 tsp garlic, a pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt and some fresh pepper. When the shallots are soft and the garlic is light golden (not dark brown and not black!), pour mixture on top of the entire dish of Mushrooms, Noodles, Bokchoy.





(2) Next, add a generous amount to chopped scallion over everything.
(3) Lastly, sprinkle more 1-2 T of black or toasted sesame seeds over everything. Serve immediately!


Tada! I served this with porridge, fish and chicken.

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