The world is upside down. Schools are closed. Pubs are shut. Supermarkets are empty. Britain’s on lockdown. And I cannot remember a life before social distancing. With the negatives being so easy to dwell on, I am trying to focus on a positive I take away from this abnormal time. All this free time indoors is giving me the opportunity to make all those dishes that my usual schedule wouldn’t permit. Throughout the next three months, I am going to make the kitchen my bitch.
However, with the ever-growing pandemic panic some underlying racism has managed to sneak its way into the COVID-19 conversation. So, to say f*** you to those ignorant bastards I went to my local Asian supermarket and made a recipe using only ingredients I found there.
Whilst everyone is out clearing the shelves at Sainos, Tesco and Asda, most asian supermarkets and independent grocers have managed to remain (relatively) well stocked. As well as avoiding the manic crowds, when choosing to shop here you will be supporting local businesses and leaving more food on the aisles for the vulnerable and for our all-important key workers.
As a bonus, if you are feeling under the weather this Asian fusion noodle soup is ideal. The broth feels almost medicinal with the garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander; and all the veggies and noodles make the soup feel comforting without sparing any flavour. While the crispy tofu is totally optional, I love it here as it gives the dish a great textural difference whilst bringing in protein to make the whole bowl a bit more balanced.
Serves: 6 Cook time: 1 hour (+ prepping the tofu 6 hours before)
For the Noodle Soup:
- 4 tbsp Gojuchang
- 1 tbsp Fish Sauce – swap out for soy sauce to make vegetarian
- 1 Veg Stock Cube
- 1 Stick of lemongrass
- 1 tbsp sriracha
- 1 Thumb of ginger – minced
- 3 Cloves of garlic – minced
- 3 Banana shallots
- 200g Enoki mushrooms – remove the bottom 4cm
- 200g Beansprouts
- 400g Pak choi (about 5 heads) – leaves and stalks separated and stalks chopped
- 3 Carrots – peeled and chopped into matchsticks
- 8 Spring onions – diagonally chopped
- 1 Bunch of Coriander – stalks removed and leaves roughly chopped
- 200g Ribbon rice noodles
For the Crispy Tofu:
- 500 g Firm tofu
- 70g Rice flour
- 2 tbsp Turmeric
- 1 tbsp Salt
- Toasted sesame oil
About 6 hours before you want to make the soup, you need to start prepping the tofu. Remove it from the packaging and drain any of the excess liquid. Blot with paper towels to remove as much excess liquid as possible. On a chopping board, put down a clean tea towel and place the tofu on top. Wrap the tofu in the tea towel. Place three heavy books on top or maybe even a heavy dutch oven filled with books? Just something to make sure a decent amount of pressure is being applied to the tofu and it is being really squished down. If you notice that the towel has almost soaked through, change it for a fresh and clean one and re-apply the press.
Now it’s time to make the broth. In a large high-sided pot add about 3 tbsp of oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger and shallots and sauté until fragrant. Add the gojuchang and sriracha and cook until the shallots are translucent. If anything starts to stick to the bottom of the pot add a splash of water.
Next, add the carrots and pak choi stalks and fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the stock cube, 1.5L of water, the lemongrass and the fish sauce. Stir all the ingredients together, making sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pot and bring to boil. Once the broth has been brought to a boil, let it simmer on low for 30 minutes.
Whilst the broth is simmering, remove the tofu from the press and cut it into large chunks. It is alright if some of the chunks slightly fall apart. These little pieces will get extra crispy in the frying process. Now, put the rice flour, turmeric and salt into a large bowl and combine. Coat each piece of tofu completely in the flour mixture and set aside. Once all the tofu is coated, drop into a pan with 4 tbsp of toasted sesame oi over medium-high heat. You will know the oil is hot enough, when you put a chopstick or fork in the oil and bubbles start to form around it. Drop in 5 tofu chunks at a time, turning to the other sides when each side has become golden and crispy. Continue this until all the tofu is fried, setting aside the tofu for when you are ready to assemble the noodle soup.
Now back to the broth, add the beansprouts, enoki mushrooms and spring onions into the pot and stir. In a separate bowl add the ribbon noodles and cover with boiling-hot water. Add the leaves of the pak choi and coriander (leaving some for garnish). Wait until the noodles are almost cooked and remove them from the water and put them into the broth. Stir one more time.
To serve, ladle out about 1/3 of a bowl with broth, then some veggies (making sure to get all of them) and then the noodles. Next, add about 4-5 pieces of the crispy tofu to the bowl and garnish with coriander. One of the best thing about this recipe is how great it is to batch cook. When it comes to reheating the leftovers the flavours will have developed even further. As you only added the tofu at assembly, any protein can therefore be added when you come to eat this again in the following days. The next day I had the noodle soup with prawns; but you could also try chicken or a vegetarian equivalent.
If you give this recipe a try, make sure to let me know how it goes in the comments or show me the finished product by tagging @hoe4bakedbeans or using #foodhoeblog on instagram.