This recipe came about because I basically have to clean out my cupboards. You may have heard. We’re leaving Buenos Aires.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about all this — I really love it here, the hombrecito is in an amazing jardin (nursery school), it’s a beautiful friendly city and we have a group of wonderful friends. But I am also REALLY excited to go home (I can’t believe it will be a YEAR to the day since I’ve set foot on American soil). I get to see my family, friends and do crazy things like wander the aisles of Whole Foods and buy everything. And life is an adventure and change is good, yada yada yada…
Anyway, I seemed to have an entire bottle of rice vinegar and quite a bit of sesame oil lying around. And bonus, I found some rice noodles tucked away in the darkest reaches of that awkward corner cabinet. And I had a boatload of fresh veggies crying out from the produce drawer, “Use us before we rot, please! We know, we’re a whole bunch of scallions and some of us probably will end up rotting, but that’s okay! Some of us will make it to the Promised Land…an actual dish eaten by people!” You mean you don’t have imaginary conversations with your vegetables? Really. Huh.
So, naturally, I needed to make an Asian flavored rice noodle salad. Normally, I’d make a sesame noodle type sauce with peanut butter, but for those that have been reading along, you won’t be surprised to hear that peanut butter has (poof!) disappeared from my daily existence. Yes, I can get it in Barrio Chino, but going there is what got me into this overdose on Asian condiments in the first place and it’s not super close to my house either, so there you go. No peanut butter. But it was actually fine. Delicious in fact. Sweet, salty, tangy, hot. Really refreshing and light, but still a substantial salad with the addition of tofu and lots of veggies to the rice noodles. And I did manage to get a peanut product in there after all, which gave it just a bit of crunch.
Okay, now what am I going to do with three jars of curry powder?
Normally, I would julienne the veggies, but with the kid, I need to make smaller pieces, so whatever you call julienned and cut in half (“medio-julienned”?) is what I do. For those of you with adult eating skills and larger mouths, have at it. Julienne to your heart’s content. You can also use whatever veggies you like; add some sprouts, whatever. I think the cabbage is kind of essential though.
Generally, rice noodles should be soaked in hot water for about 20-30 minutes, then cooked in a bit of oil in a wok on high heat, occasionally adding water and covering to steam/soften the noodles for about 10 minutes. If you don’t feel like dealing with all this, you can just use regular spaghetti or fettucini (or some other long, thin pasta).
About the tofu: I didn’t marinate all of it because I didn’t have room in the bowl and I didn’t want to use up too much dressing, plus I wasn’t sure the kid would like it that way vs. plain; turns out that was an unfounded fear, so next time I’ll probably marinate all of it or just make a little more dressing.
Asian Rice Noodle Salad
400 g rice noodles
1 cucumber, peeled and julienned
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
3/4 red pepper, julienned
1/3 head of cabbage (about 1-1/2 cups), shredded
2 scallions, green and light green parts diced (you can use the whole thing, I just thought it may be too strong for the kiddo)
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1 block firm tofu, diced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 inch ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, finely minced or passed through a press
Juice of half a lime
Squirt of siracha sauce (optional)
Sesame seeds (optional) — damn, I have a whole bag of black sesame seeds and didn’t realize it until now
Cook the noodles according to directions on package.
Make the dressing and add half the tofu and let it sit for a couple minutes. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the marinated and plain tofu. Let it sit in the pan for a bit, then turn the cubes to brown on all sides (or at least 2 or 3; this can get a little tedious). You want the outside to caramelize and get crispy.
While that’s cooking, chop your veggies and add to a large serving bowl (or in my case, the bowl to the salad spinner. Classy with a “k” — or is that klassy with a “k”? Eh, you get the idea.). Add a bit of dressing to the veggies, then add the cooked tofu, rice noodles and the rest of the dressing. Mix well. Add the chopped cilantro and peanuts, reserving a bit of each to use as a garnish for each serving.