Caramelized lemongrass tofu with vermicelli

Vietnamese bun thit nuong is a cold noodle salad dish, traditionally served with pork and a dressing made from fish sauce. This is a much improved version that doesn't require any killing.

Makes 2 servings.

1 - 16oz package super firm tofu
1/4 c. unrefined cane sugar
1/4 c. + 2 tbs. water
2 tbs. soy sauce
2 tbs. canola oil
1 tbs. rice wine vinegar
1 tbs. ginger, grated
1/4 c. lemongrass, chopped (about 4" of stem)
1/2 tsp. sriracha
1 green onion, chopped

If you can't find super firm tofu, use a complementary flavor of baked tofu (teriyaki, 5-spice, etc.); the dense texture is important. Slice the tofu into about 1/4" thick, 2" squares, and set aside. In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and 2 tbs. of water to a boil, then simmer until it reaches a medium caramel color. Meanwhile, mix the rest of the ingredients, except the water, in a small bowl. Once the caramel reaches the desired color, carefully add the 1/4 c. of water (it will splatter!) Return to a boil and stir just until the sugar dissolves again. Add the caramel to the rest of the marinade and stir well. Place the tofu slices in a shallow dish and pour the marinade on top. Toss a few times to make sure all of the slices are coated, then cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Overnight is even better.

Arrange the tofu on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and broil on high, for about 7-8 minutes, or until the surface begins to crisp and the edges are caramelized. Flip the slices, then broil for another 7-8 minutes.

4 oz. rice noodles
2 qt. water

You can find these dry noodles at most Asian markets. They will be labeled rice sticks or vermicelli, and should be skinny, translucent, and a little crinkly-looking.

Bring the water to a boil, then add the noodles. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until they are just tender. Drain, rinse under cold water, then drain again. Place in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. They will continue to absorb moisture and will "fluff up" a little.

1/4 c. water
3 tbs. rice wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 clove garlic
1 tbs. unrefined cane sugar
3/4 tsp. vegetarian oyster sauce

Smash the garlic clove with the side of your knife to loosen the paper, then add the whole clove to the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Vegetarian oyster sauce can be found in Asian markets and is made from mushroom extracts. 1/2 tsp. soy sauce can be used if oyster sauce cannot be found, but that's not as fun. Prepare this while the tofu is marinating, and set the dressing in the fridge while you wait on everything else to finish. Fish out the garlic before serving, unless you really like garlic. You can add some of your shredded carrots to the sauce for a quick pickling that will add extra flavor.

2 1/2 c. lettuce, chopped (5-6 leaves)
1 small carrot
1/2 small cucumber
1/4 c. cilantro
1/4 c. mint
1/4 c. roasted, unsalted peanuts

Shred/julienne the carrot and cucumber, chop the mint and cilantro, and crush the peanuts.

To serve:

Gently separate the noodles with your fingers (they will be stuck together), and divide into two large bowls. Divide vegetables into the two bowls as well. Top with caramelized tofu and crushed peanuts, and serve with the dressing on the side. Scoop some of those yummy caramelized onion and lemongrass bits on top, too. Immediately before eating, pour dressing over the bowl, toss, then enjoy!

Disclaimer: Traditionally this dish should also have bean sprouts and I can't stand those things raw, but please add bean sprouts, if you enjoy them.

Variations: These same ingredients can be used to make tasty summer rolls. Just wrap in rice paper, and use the dressing as a dipping sauce.

1 comment:

anna/village vegan said...

That looks SO good. I can't wait to try it!!