Vietnamese Sweet Lemon Curry Soba Noodle Tofu Salad

If I’m going to enjoy tofu, it HAS to have been frozen, thawed, and pressed before being seasoned and cooked. Freezing tofu changes the texture into something I almost find enjoyable, so there’s always a block sitting in our freezer. This cold soba noodle salad with tofu, locally grown carrots, peppers, and tomatoes, and fried garlic is well worth repeating.

Here’s how I made it.

First, the thawed tofu needs to be pressed to expel excess liquid. I usually wrap it in a few layers of paper towels and gently squeeze it, being careful not to squeeze too hard and tear the block. Then it’s ready to be cut into bite-sized pieces and marinated. I chose a dry rub since it was going to be fried. Wet marinades make for quite a mess when it hits hot oil. Lesson learned!

The tofu was generously seasoned with Vietnamese Sweet Lemon Curry from Savory Spice Shop and then pan fried in peanut oil until crispy on all sides. The secret to getting a nice crust on each side is having a hot pan, hot oil, and not checking the food to see if it’s cooked, but waiting until it’s fully seared before flipping it. The chef-husband had to lecture me a few times on this before I listened, and what a difference it makes! Gone (hopefully) are the days of tofu sticking to the pan and breaking apart when it’s flipped, leaving smaller pieces to burn and stripping the tofu of it’s coating (read: flavor). After each side gets a crust, just remove them and let them cool.

Next, a chopped carrot and green pepper from the Boulder Farmer’s Market went into the peanut oil pan to heat them ever so slightly. I boiled soba noodles according to the instructions on the package and then rinsed them in cold water to keep them from cooking, fried some garlic until crispy, chopped a jalapeño, and sliced a tomato.

I tossed the cold noodles with sesame seeds and the carrot and pepper pieces, and then drizzled some toasted sesame seed oil, fresh squeezed lemon, soy sauce (I prefer the unpasteurized Nama Shoyu brand), and a little local honey. Finally, I added diced jalapeño and crispy fried garlic for an extra crunch and kick.

Fried Garlic

Do you LOVE garlic? Are you totally fine with garlic breath lingering after a meal? I am. But my garlic “chips” really aren’t too crazy. They won’t end your date night early. They’ll be a star on your table if garlic goes well with your meal.

Fried Garlic

This is really easy to make, but you must pay attention or else it will burn.

Peel and slice garlic. I sliced 4 cloves 1/16th inch thick. Heat oil in a pan. I heated 3-4 tablespoons of sunflower oil to medium high. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir frequently so each piece cooks evenly.

When golden brown, let cool on a paper towel.

Add as a garnish to soups, salads, grind in a mortar and pestle for garlic powder…

Black Garlic Tofu and Bok Choy Sesame Noodles

One of the newer staples in my arsenal of Savory Spice Shop ingredients is Korean Aged Black Garlic. It can turn an ordinary dinner into something much more interesting and unique, so, pick some up and experiment.
Here’s what I did this time…

  • One block firm tofu, frozen, thawed, pressed, and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 TB chopped garlic
  • 2 TB chopped black garlic (which you can find at Savory Spice Shop)
  • 1 TB grated ginger
  • 4 TB soy sauce (divided in half)
  • 1 TB sesame oil
  • 1 TB rice vinegar
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • baby bok choy, chopped and divided between leafy greens and celery-like stem
  • soba or udon noodles
  • 3-4 TB toasted sesame oil
  • toasted sesame seeds (I buy my seeds already toasted from Savory Spice Shop)
  • chopped peanuts
First, bring water to a boil for the noodles. Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. They are frequently boiled, drained, and rinsed in cold water, so I like to bring my water to a boil while prepping other ingredients.
Heat up a wok with 1 TB sesame oil. When hot, add the tofu cubes, ginger, garlic, and 2 TB soy sauce. Let this cook a bit, tossing it around occasionally. Squeeze half of the lime, mix, and let it cook. Next, add the chopped stem part of the bok choy and 1 TB rice vinegar. Then add the white wine and the rest of the soy sauce and let it cook another few minutes (approximately 10 minutes total).
By now, the noodles should be boiled, drained, and rinsed. Add the noodles to the wok as well as the leafy part of the bok choy and toasted sesame oil, and gently stir to mix it all evenly and heat the noodles all the way through.
Scoop some noodles into a bowl and top with some toasted sesame seeds, chopped peanuts, and a spritz of lime. Enjoy with chopsticks.

Mushrooms and Bok Choy in Black Garlic Sauce

I am finding uses for the Korean Aged Black Garlic I recently bought. It has a very unique flavor that pairs well with mushrooms and soy sauce for a complete umami experience. Have you tried cooking with black garlic yet? I don’t know a lot about it, but I’m interested in finding some new flavor combinations to play around with.

For this dish, I coarsely chopped some black garlic. You’ll see for yourself upon handling black garlic that it is easier to give it a coarse chop than a fine mince. It is very soft, yet not as soft as roasted garlic. It’s interesting. I like it. It is also black… very black.
I had some of my favorite mushrooms on hand- Hazel Dell, of course. I sliced up some cinnamon cap, cremini, oyster, and shiitake mushrooms, as well as some bok choy I received from my CSA with Ollin Farms.
This side dish is very simple to make.
Heat up a pan with 1/2 TB peanut oil and 1/2 TB butter. When this is hot, add your mushrooms and get them going. After a few minutes when they start to almost stick to the pan, add a TB of soy sauce, some chopped black garlic, and give it a stir.
After a few more minutes, add the chopped bok choy and 1/3 cup or so of white wine to get a little sauce going.
When the bok choy is bright green, it’s done. I sprinkled some toasted sesame seeds on top.
I kept this really simple for three reasons. 1) I wanted to taste the black garlic. 2) the mushrooms and bok choy were super fresh, so I wanted to allow their flavors to show through without added spice. I just might change that if I make this again without farm-fresh foods. 3) I served it with my super flavorful Best Grilled Shrimp.
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