Spicy Szechuan tofu with beansprout noodles

Spicy, crispy, sticky tofu with super savoury noodles are a match made in heaven. At least once a week an Asian dish hits our dinner table and satisfies the midweek cravings that only Chinese can fulfil. I have used ‘Facing Heaven’ chillies that are used in the Szechuan province to add heat and colour to a range of dishes. They are mild enough to use whole in dishes to flavour but can be chopped if you prefer. If you cannot find them then use red dried chillies but adjust the quantities based on the strength of them- don’t get caught out! The beansprout noodles I served the tofu with are a great accompaniment to any Chinese main meal that you’ll keep coming back to.

Like a lot of my Asian recipes, the ingredients need a little time to prepare in advance as the dish comes together at speed so it pays to be organised.

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Ingredients- serves 2
1 pack of firm tofu
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp ground nut oil
Handful of ‘Facing Heaven chillies’
1-2 tbsp chilli bean paste
1 garlic clove- crushed
2cm piece of fresh ginger- grated
Small red bell pepper and small green bell pepper
4 spring onions- sliced in the diagonal

For the noodle sauce
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp oyster or Hoisin sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornflour mixed into 2 tbsp water
1 tsp sesame oil
1 garlic clove- crushed
Small pack of beansprouts
1 head of shredded pak choi (optional)
2 nests of medium egg noodles

1. To start things off, make sure your ingredients are all prepared so you don’t have to scramble around your kitchen. Make the sauce for the noodles first by combining the vinegar, rice wine, soy, oyster or hoisin sauce, sugar, sesame oil and garlic. In a small bowl mix the cornflour with the water before adding into the sauce. Set aside.

2. Next, get going on the tofu. Take it from the pack and pat dry; if there is a lot of moisture with the tofu you buy then press firmly for a few minutes to remove excess water. Cut the tofu into bite size chunks, season with salt and sprinkle the cornflour over them, making sure that each piece is coated. Take a non- stick frying pan or wok and add 1 tbsp of groundnut oil over a medium to high heat. Take the tofu in a couple of batches and fry off until golden and crisp. Remove the first batch with a slotted spoon and blot on kitchen paper before frying the remaining batch.

3. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil in a wok and heat the ‘facing heaven chillies’ over a medium heat for a few minutes. The chillies will release their flavour and turn the oil a wonderful shade of red. Add in the garlic and ginger and cook for an additional minute before adding the peppers; cooking these until the peppers are starting to soften. Spoon in the bean paste and stir well to coat the peppers. You are aiming for the peppers to retain some bite. Toss the tofu chunks into the wok and cook until heated through. You will find the sauce thickens as the cooking continues to give a sticky, savoury finish. Add the sliced spring onions before serving and toss through.

4. In the meantime, prepare the egg noodles are per packet instructions as different brands vary. Prepare them so they are suitable for stir fry; this usually entails soaking them in boiling water for around 4 minutes before draining and then cooking with. Take a separate frying pan or wok and heat a glug of groundnut oil and fry the garlic. Beansprouts and shredded pak choi (if using) and cook for a couple of minutes. Pop the drained noodles in the pan along with the sauce you made earlier. Cook until the noodles are heated through and the sauce is thick and clinging to the strands. If you find it is a little dry then add in a little more oyster/ hoisin or soy sauce.

 

Prawn, crab and tofu pad thai

Pad thai is a classic street food dish that can be tweaked and adapted to please even the most fussy of eaters. As long as it is packed with delicious noodles and flavours then the world is your oyster- or crab and prawn in this instance. I have also added tofu in for extra texture- if you don’t routinely use it then do give it a go! You may well be surprised. I have chosen a firm tofu here which I think is the best way to introduce yourself to the bean curd world. The key to a perfect pad thai is in the preparation. Once the you start, it happens relatively quickly so you really do need to prep everything beforehand.

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Ingredients- serves 2 hungry people
2 large eggs
4 spring onions cut on the diagonal
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp tamarind paste dissolved in 30ml boiling water
2 tbsp palm sugar
125g firm tofu cut into 2cm cubes
30g grated ginger
2 red chillies finely chopped
1 banana shallot finely sliced
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
150g raw king prawns deveined and roughly chopped
100g rice noodles
100g white crabmeat
75g beansprouts
10 chives cut into 3 cm lengths
50g peanuts roughly chopped
Small handful of Thai basil and coriander finely chopped

1. Beat the eggs lightly and add a tablespoon of the fish sauce before setting aside ready for later. Read the instructions for your rice noodles at this stage as some need soaking for longer than others. Prepare according to instructions all ready for later.

2. Take the tamarind water and add the palm sugar and remaining 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. Stir well to ensure the sugar dissolves; if you find it has not fully dissolved you can add a splash of boiling water to help things along.

3. Place a large wok over a medium/ high heat and add 2 tsp of vegetable or groundnut oil. Add the tofu cubes, in a couple of batches if needed so as to not overcrowd the pan, and fry off until golden all over. Set aside to blot of kitchen paper.

4. Next you need to cook the garlic, chillies, ginger, shallots and spring onion until softening. You could also add a piece of finely sliced lemongrass at this stage of you like.

5. Pop in the prawns and the tamarind water to the wok and cook for a few seconds to make sure the prawns are coated. Add the noodles back into the wok and cook for a minute or so, again ensuring the strands are coated in the tamarind. Next into the wok goes the crab, bean sprouts, chive, basil, coriander and tofu. Toss gently to heat through. At this stage I then pushed the noodle mixture to one side in the wok and added the beaten eggs. Beat them in the wok until it begins to scramble and then you can mix it all the way through the rest of the noodles so the egg is well dispersed. Heat until the noodles are warm, the tofu is reheated and the prawns are a delicate blush pink.

Divide between 2 bowls and serve with a garnish of chopped peanut and you can add some roasted chilli flakes for an extra bit of spice or some extra chives if you like.

Prawn, crab and tofu pad thai- a satisfyingly savoury dish that will leave you wanting more!

Chilli sesame crusted tofu

Time for another tofu post I feel in an effort to get this bean curd beauty back in vogue! This gives the tofu such a savoury hit that it goes well in rice and noodle dishes so be as creative as you want. I like to use smoked tofu to add an extra flavour dimension but plain tofu is just as delicious.

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Ingredients- serves 2
1 block of firm tofu- plain or smoked
1 egg
4 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp red chilli flakes
Small pack of panko crumbs

1. Start off by blotting the tofu with kitchen towel to remove any excess moisture before cutting into bite sized pieces.

2. Crack an egg into a bowl, whisk lightly and set aside. Combine a mixture of panko crumbs, chilli and sesame and lay out on a plate. The quantities of sesame and chilli can be altered depending on your tastes but try to get a balance between the heat of the chilli, savouriness of the sesame and crunch of the crumb.

3. When you are ready, drop the tofu chunks in the egg before rolling each piece in the crumb mix. Make sure each side is well coated. Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a pan so it is around 3cm deep (now is not the time to walk away and leave this!) and heat. When the oil is hot enough, shallow fry the tofu in small batches so it is golden and crisp. Remove the tofu with a slotted spoon and blot on kitchen roll.

Serve immediately with your choice of rice or noodle dish.

Crispy chilli sesame tofu- a crunchy new way of trying tofu!