Thursday, December 25, 2014

Singapore Noodles

EconoSpeak goes gastro!  Here's a scrumptious dish that fights back against holiday bloat.  The traditional recipe calls for shrimp instead of tofu.  I started making it with tofu since my partner is vegetarian, but then I realized I preferred it that way.  And subbing tofu for shrimp makes the dish just a little bit lighter, which adds to the appeal.

Rumor has it that this has nothing to do with Singapore.  It originated in Hong Kong and was given a name that sounded exotic and might increase sales.  But no matter.  I make it 1-2 times a month.  Leftovers are just as good as the first day, maybe better.

Singapore Noodles

1 lb. very thin rice noodles
2 tbs peanut oil plus more for frying the tofu
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbs peeled, chopped ginger root
2 carrots, shredded
2 stalks celery, very thinly sliced
2 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
1 cup bean sprouts (or throw in a whole package, it's OK)
1 lb firm tofu, cut into slices about 1"x1"x1/3"
1½  tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup soy sauce or more to taste
1 tbs toasted sesame oil

1. Prepare the tofu: press the slices between cloth or paper towels to remove most of the liquid, then fry them at medium-high heat in a nonstick pan with enough neutral oil to film the bottom of the pan.  When they are golden brown, flip them and fry the other side.  Drain on paper towels and set aside.  This will have to be done in multiple batches depending on the size of your pan.  It's a standard technique that can be used for preparing tofu for a variety of recipes.  You can buy pre-fried tofu at Asian markets, but it’s not as good.

2. Prepare the noodles: follow the directions on the package, taking into consideration they will be briefly stir-fried at the end.  Different products have very different cooking instructions.  The main thing is not to overcook, as the noodles will congeal into a thick, unappetizing mass.  You want a touch of al dente.

3. Prepare the sauce: combine the curry, cayenne, sugar, salt, pepper, and soy sauce.  There is considerable variety among soy sauces (and tamari), so experience and judgment are useful.  Don’t add less than 1/4 cup, but you might add a bit more if the soy sauce is on the light side.  Don’t go overboard, however, since you can always add more soy at the table.

4. Heat a wok and add the remaining oil.  When it is hot, add the garlic, ginger, carrots, celery, cabbage, and bean sprouts.  Stir-fry for 3 minutes.  Add the soy and spice mixture.  Toss for a moment to mix, and then add the tofu, tossing for at most a minute.  Now add the noodles and continue tossing until they are heated and combined with the sauce and vegetables.  This is the most difficult step, since the noodles must be separated to coat them more or less evenly, but you don’t want to make a complete mess.  Two implements, like a pair of wooden spoons, are necessary to do this.  Don’t spend more than 1-2 minutes on this last step.  When you are done, remove from the heat and stir in the sesame oil.

5. Serve immediately, and provide extra soy sauce, sesame oil and chili oil as condiments.

This makes 4-5 substantial servings.  Serve with beer or a not-too-dry white wine with a mineral finish.  Riesling is great.

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