Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stir fried greens with garlic, ginger, and tofu

I must have made this dish twice a week all last winter, and now that autumn approaches I'm craving it again. It has the virtues of being spicy, hot, nutritious, comforting, easy, and coming together in about ten minutes total. I do like it really spicy with the garlic, ginger, and chilli flavours, which is why the sauce is so simple. I also tend to serve a lot of the stir fry over a relatively small amount of noodles, like a thick soup, so this recipe serves two small eaters or big noodle-lovers, or just one if you're hungry.

For the stir fry:
1 tsp peanut or canola oil
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 cups chopped packed robust greens (I like bok choy or gai lan but you can use anything)

For the sauce:
¾ - 1 cup cool water (more will make it "soupier")
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp roasted sesame oil

½ lb fresh tofu
½ cup frozen shelled edamame beans (optional)
black pepper to taste
soba noodles, rice noodles, Chinese flour noodles, or other noodles of your choice

1. Press the tofu, if you're using fresh. You actually don't have to do this, but it does improve the texture, and if you press the tofu in a wire mesh colander while you do the rest of the prep and until you need it for the recipe, that will be enough, plus you can use the same colander to drain the pasta. You could use fried tofu or firm tofu for this recipe, but give the fresh a try; it's so wonderful in this dish that I won't even make it if I don't have some on hand.

2. Start the water boiling for your pasta, which will be cooking while the stir fry is frying. Depending on the type of pasta you're using, you'll drop it into the boiling water at some point during the next steps—timing it to be ready at the same time as your stir fry and not to be sitting around for a while getting soggy. Remember that rice vermicelli and Chinese flour noodles can take literally only seconds to achieve perfection.

3. Heat your wok over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the peanut or canola oil and swish it around, then add the chopped ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes. Stir fry them just until the mixture smells sharp and fragrant—you don't want any of this to brown—and then add the greens and flip them about with a spatula or tongs to get them cooking.

4. Now make your sauce. Mix the soy sauce with the water, add the cornstarch and stir it up well so that there are no lumps. Add the roasted sesame oil.

5. By this time, your greens should be just wilted. They will cook further with the sauce, so they don't need to be completely done. Pour the sauce over them, and then gently add the fresh tofu (cut into large cubes), black pepper to taste, and the edamame beans, if using.

6. Cook over medium-high heat until the sauce is bubbling and translucent, and serve immediately over noodles.

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