Jan has put up with my meat eating for 35 years now (30 of them in the married state as of this month). She considers herself a born again carnivore, but she still misses being a vegetarian. Since she let me have lamb on Easter, I planned on a tofu stir fry for dinner tonight. Eilene, however, had some friend over and so I had to add some things to what I was planning to make to have enough for two adults and three hungry teen-aged girls. They must have liked it because they cleaned it down to the last noodle and scrap of vegetable.
[no picture, it disappeared too fast]
For the pan fried noodles you want to get Asian/Korean style wheat noodles with the uncooked 1/8 inch square cross section (not the thin or flat ones). The ones that I find work best come in a yellow package and in 4 or 5 bunches. Use half a package and seal the rest in a zip-lock bag for later. These will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.
Pan frying noodles is a hard earned skill for me. If the noodles are not fairly dry, your heat is too high, you do not use enough oil or your pan is not perfectly non-stick, the noodles will seal themselves to your pan and you will end up with a hard to clean mess. If you get everything right you will have noodle pancakes that are crispy brown on the outside and chewy tender on the inside (the gold standard). It has taken me years of fiddling with the noodles and temperature, finding the right pan and perfecting the pancake flip to get it right. All I can say is good luck. Just remember there is no bad pan fried noodle, only good, better, and heaven.
I have found bok choy sold in three ways. 1) Picture foot long celery with large white stalks and big dark green leaves. You will find these in many Western stores, but never them in a real Asian market. 2) As baby bok choy, 5-6 inches long with pale green stalks and dark leaves. And 3) As the same thing, but only 3-4 inches long, also called baby bok choy. Use them whole if you can get the very small ones. If you can only find the larger baby bok choy quartered the length-wise. The large white ones are pretty tasteless.
I recently discovered giant bamboo and I really like it, but Jan objected to the way I was cutting it. After peeling off the tough outer leaves I was slicing it into planks along the vertical grain. Jan found these ½ x 1/8 x 2 inch planks too hard to chew. This time I quartered the bamboo lengthwise and then sliced it thin across the grain. This still had the flavor I liked, but was much easier to chew.
Karl’s Fried Tofu and Baby Bok Choy with Pan Fried Noodles
14 oz. extra firm tofu
1 lb. fresh Asian/Korean style noodles
3 tsp. dark sesame oil
3 tsp. spicy bean sauce, separate uses
(or 2 tsp. broad bean sauce and 1 tsp. chili garlic sauce mixed together)
3 tsp. soy sauce, separate uses
2 Tbs. Hoisin sauce
3-4 Tbs. peanut oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 green onions, cut into 2 inch pieces, separate uses
1 giant bamboo shoot
4 oz. daikon radish, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 lb. baby bok choy
Knob of ginger, sliced (about 1 Tbs.)
1. Two to three hours before dinner, drain the block of tofu and put it on a large plate. Put a second smaller plate on top of the tofu and weight it down with a 3-4 pound weight. Every half hour drain the fluid that has been pressed out of the tofu and replace the weight.
2. Prep all of the vegetables and measure out 1tsp. dark sesame oil, 2 tsp. of spicy bean sauce, 2 tsp. soy sauce, 2 Tbs. Hoisin sauce into a cup for the final sauce.
3. About one hour before dinner, slice the block of tofu into ½ inch thick planks.
4. Put 1 tsp. of spicy bean sauce, 1 tsp. of soy sauce, ½ tsp. of dark sesame oil on the large plate and mix them together. Turn the tofu planks in the sauce until they are completely covered. Marinate them for 30 minutes, flipping them occasionally.
5. Set a large pot of water to boil.
6. While waiting for the water fry the tofu in 2 tsp. of peanut oil until dark brown. Cut them into bite sized pieces and set them aside in a warm oven.
7. When the water in boiling, add the noodles and cook until al dente (about 3-4 minutes). Drain them in a colander and rinse them with cold water.
8. Toss the noodles with 1½ tsp. sesame oil, so that they do not stick together and cool and drain completely.
9. Pan fry the noodles in three batches with 2 tsp. of peanut oil per batch. Put them on a lipped baking tray, cut the pancakes in quarters and put them in a warm oven until the rest of the meal is cooked.
10. All of this has been prep for the final stir fry which takes only 10 minutes. You have your vegetables prepped and ready to hand, your fried tofu and your sauce, in a cup, ready to throw on at the end, and your pan fried noodles ready to be served. If you are not ready to serve at this point, you can keep everything on hold for up to half an hour (any longer and your noodles will stop being chewy and become tough and crunchy).
11. When you are ready to finish, add the remaining peanut oil to a very large sauté pan or wok.
12. Add the onions and the white parts of the green onions to the pan and stir fry for 3 minutes (until the onions are translucent).
13. Add the bamboo shoot, daikon radish, celery and garlic. Stir fry for 3 minutes more.
14. Stir in the baby bok choy and put a cover on the pan. Steam the bok choi for 3 minutes, stirring once about half way through.
15. Remove the cover and make a hole in the vegetables by pulling them to the edges of the pan. Pour the sauce into the hole, add the ginger, and heat it through, mixing for 10-15 seconds.
16. Add the tofu and toss to coat all with the sauce. Heat through for 30 to 40 seconds.
17. Diners serve themselves to the noodles and pour the stir fry and sauce over them.