TOFU WITH SOBA NOODLES

People often assume I don’t eat meat.

Lots of Indian folks don’t, of course, and given that I am rather brown and wear a bindi on my forehead every day, it reflects more cultural sensitivity than insensitivity when people say “You’re a vegetarian, right?”

Wrong.  Anyone who’s ever read this blog or gone out to dinner with me knows that I love to eat pretty much everything, and that I live with an unabashed meat eater.  There are, however, a lot of vegetarians in my life, including my mom and some of my closest friends.  It’s always funny (albeit a little annoying) to go out to eat with these folks, only to have the server inevitably plunk the vegetarian dish down in front of me.  I do so enjoy contradicting assumptions.

Enter tofu.  It suffers from far more false assumptions than I; people assume that it’s bland, mushy, and utterly unappetizing.  On the contrary—when prepared well, tofu can be delicious.  Does it taste like meat?  No, but I don’t think that’s the point.  Eating vegetarian shouldn’t be about compensating for missing meat, but enjoying a complete meal without it.

TOFU WITH SOBA NOODLES

The method here is what’s important—pressing the water out of the tofu before marinating it before cooking it over high heat.  Play around with the marinade and feel free to substitute different vegetables like bok choy.

Soba noodles are an obsession of mine.  I love how quickly they cook and how hearty they are; they stand up well to the peanut sauce I’ve included here.  You could easily swap in some brown rice, though, if that’s what you’ve got in the pantry or if it’s simply what you prefer.

ingredients:

1 package extra-firm tofu
1 package soba (buckwheat) noodles
1 head broccoli, crowns cut off stem
3-4 carrots, peeled & sliced into fat diagonal pieces

To prepare the tofu, first drain it from its packaging.  Slice lengthwise into 6 slabs.  Arrange the tofu atop a layer of paper towels, supporting underneath by a kitchen towel.  Lay more paper towels on top of the tofu, followed by another kitchen towel.  Press firmly to force water out of the tofu.

Pour the following marinade into a shallow baking pan.  Lay the tofu slices in the pan to absorb the marinade for at least 20 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.

for the marinade:

½ cup soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
2 T fresh ginger, peeled & chopped
2 T garlic, chopped
splash of Mirin or rice wine vinegar

To cook the tofu, bring a grill pan or nonstick skillet to high heat.  Coat with a bit of vegetable oil, then remove the tofu from its marinade and cook it until it colors, about 7-8 minutes on each side.

While the tofu is cooking, bring a small pot of water to a boil and cook the soba noodles, which take only 2-3 minutes.  Drain, then rinse with cold water.  Steam or sauté the vegetables, then add to the noodles.

Serve the hot tofu on a bed of soba noodles & vegetables, topping with peanut sauce if desired.

for the peanut sauce:

1 cup chunky peanut butter
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
1 T minced garlic
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. Sambal Olek chili paste or chili flakes
juice of 1 lemon

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, breaking up the peanut butter with the back of a spoon until it forms a sauce.  Thin with water to desired consistency.  Taste check & add soy sauce for salt/chili paste for heat, if necessary.

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