FIRE NOODLES WITH CRISPY TOFU
As far as food preferences go, Jeff and I couldn’t be more opposite. In addition to me being vegan and him being not-vegan, but always willing-to-eat-vegan-stuff-I-make, he eats the same meals day after day, and always at the same time. I eat only when I’m hungry, no matter the time is, and like to try new things as often as possible. At my most enthusiastic, I’ve teared up over a great meal or cursed quietly after an amazing first bite. Jeff’s reaction is always more of the socially acceptable and polite variety, usually followed with a shrug and a yeah, that was good when asked.
But more pronounced is our difference of opinion on spice. I love the clean burn of thai chilis, seeing a neon oil slick on top of curries and smelling the aroma of a well-balanced chili sauce wafting off a dish. But anything remotely spicy is kryptonite to Jeff, and he can detect the tiniest speck of it in anything. So when I make a dish with sriracha, sambal, thai chilis or any dried chili spices, I’m on my own.
The other night, I was craving something spicy, so I made this dish. After the first bite, “fire noodles” seemed like an accurate name. Sure, there’s sambal in there, but it’s the thai chilis that make these noodles scary hot. After googling “fire noodles,” I learned that this is an actual thing, with an actual following. I have no idea how this version compares, but if you like heat, this fits the bill and can be scaled up or down to your liking.
for the sauce
1 TB coconut oil
1 TB minced ginger
1 TB brown sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1/3 cup sambal (use a little more or less to taste)
1-3 thai chili peppers, sliced or left whole, dried or a mix of the two (optional, obvs)
2/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
for the tofu
1 block tofu, cut into 8 slabs (no need to press)
1 cup panko
1/4 cup sesame seeds, white and/or black
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup water
oil, for sauteing
2 servings of noodles, any kind
broccoli or your vegetable of choice, sauteed
To make the sauce
Melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add in the minced ginger and allow to fry for about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, then add in the brown sugar and stir to coat. Add in the rice vinegar, stir, then add in the peanut butter and stir until liquefied. Add in the sambal and thai chilis (if using), stir, then pour in the coconut milk. Bring to a small simmer, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat and cover.
To make the tofu
Combine the panko and sesame seeds in one bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the white rice flour and water until smooth.
Preheat a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add a thin layer of oil to the bottom. Dredge the tofu in the rice flour/water mixture, then press into the panko/sesame seed mixture until evenly coated. Place into the hot pan and allow each side to become golden brown, a few minutes on each side. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Boil the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain, then toss them with the sauce. Transfer to serving bowls, topping with the vegetables, tofu, crushed peanuts and sliced scallions. Serve immediately.