This recipe may have a long title and sound like it’s a lot of work, but don’t fret, it’s not! And it will still be ready within 30 minutes.
Inspiration for this dish came from a quick dinner out before going to the theatre a few weeks ago.Having recently moved to Mid Devon, we’re still exploring the area and, so far, haven’t found that many places that serve food that works for us. There are vegan options but tend to be deep fried (a no-go area on the OMS programme) or burgers which are a complete waste of time for me as the bun is often the main part, which I don’t eat (yeast intolerance!).
So I was delighted to discover a little Vietnamese cafe in our local town that not only had a vegan menu, but one which had options I could eat. Horray! I was really hungry when we went so opted for their tofu and veg noodle bowl, which was huge. Way to huge for me to finish, but I gave it a good go.
Apart from the lovely crispy pak choi, the highlight for me was the super tasty savoury ginger broth. I couldn’t quite work out what was in it but it was wonderful. And as it stayed on my mind all week, I decided to create my own version at home.
As I wasn’t 100% sure what was in it, I just used the simple store cupboard ingredients I had to hand and was really pleased with the results.
And when I say simple – I mean it. The broth contains just 5 ingredients:
- soya sauce or tamari if gluten free
- vegetable stock
- fresh ginger
- fresh garlic
- black pepper
That’s it! And whilst I’m sure the broth created in restaurants traditionally takes a long time to infuse (and always tends to give me a headache!), my version takes less that half and hour, and no headache either – bonus on both sides!
Over the last few years as I’ve hit my fifties, I’ve been finding ways to increase the amount of soya I eat like tofu, tempeh, soya ‘milk’ and ‘yoghurt’ (as long as they omit lots of emulsifiers). They are a great source of plant protein which is really important for muscle strength as well as weight management. Plus research shows the phytoestrogens found in minimally processed soya products helps with hormonal changes during the menopause and can be protective again some conditions like breast cancer and can help reduce or minimise pesky menopausal symptoms which get in the way of every day life.
For example, one study showed that women who consumed just half a cup of soya beans a day (as well as a plant-based diet) had a huge drop in hot flushes – 84% huge! Another study looking at the increased risk of fractures and muscle loss in menopausal women showed that women who drink soy milk one or more times per day are 56% less likely to develop osteoporosis than women who do not drink soy milk. Which is good news for those of us who are either dairy intolerant or choose not to consume milk for health or ethical issues (and worth remembering if your GP instructs you to include dairy in your diet!). I’ll write about this more in a blog post soon.
As long as it’s set with calcium carbonate, tofu is a good dietary source of calcium which of course is needed for bone and teeth health, as well as other essential processes like nerve conduction. Always check the ingredients to see what setting agent is used. I tend to buy Cauldron tofu as I know it contains a good amount of calcium as well as being organically sourced and often a good price too, very important in current times.
To get crispy tofu, it has to be very firm with as much water removed as possible. You can buy extra firm versions like Tofoo. Alternatively, firm tofu needs to be pressed. You can do this easily with a tofu press like this one from Tofuture. I’ve had one of these for a few years and they’re super useful. Otherwise just layer some kitchen roll on a large plate, pop the tofu block in the middle, then cover with more kitchen roll and another plate. Pop a couple of 400g tins on top to weigh it down and leave for a few hours in the fridge. This removes a goodly amount of water, just like a tofu press. It’s just a bit messier. Please note, silken tofu is not suitable for pressing – don’t even try!
The easiest way to get crispy tofu is to fry it in oil. Of course with a whole-food plant-based diet, this is not an option, particularly if you are following it for health reasons. You can bake it in the oven at a high temperature but the crispiness is not that good. If you have one to hand, the best option is to use an air fryer. I think most people have one these days but if you don’t, it’s a handy, if bulky, addition to the kitchen. I have a Ninja which I’m super happy with, but there are lots of options, and price tags, out there, so shop around.
Use whatever noodles you have to hand; wholewheat work well but go for rice or buckwheat noodles if you’re gluten free. And pop in whatever greens you have to hand. I bought a wonderful Brussel sprout top which was a glorious addition.
A colourful garnish always finishes a noodle bowl off – if it’s pleasing to the eye, it seems to taste even better. I still had fresh chillis growing in my greenhouse, so sprinkled one of those over along with some fresh coriander. I really should have checked how hot it was though, as after a mouthful, I ended up fishing them all out again as wow, it had a bite!
Lime, or lemon if you don’t have one, is an essential ingredient to help you absorb all the iron milling about in those glorious greens.
The main difficulty with this recipe is juggling all of the elements – there’s a lot going on at the same time. You can make the broth ahead of time to make it slightly easier, but you’ll still need to have it piping hot to serve. The order I suggest is:
- tofu (if cooking in the oven)
- tofu (if cooking in the air-fryer)
- stir fry veggies
It can all be done in 30 minutes – the worst part really is the washing up. So make sure you have someone else to hand to do that for you 😉 You’ve done all the hard work creating a beautiful dinner after all 🙂
Even writing about this gorgeously tasty green noodle bowl with crispy tofu has made my mouth water, so I hope you enjoy it just as much as we do. Don’t forget to let me know how you get on.
Broccoli and greens noodle bowl with ginger broth and crispy tofu
- Air fryer recommended if you have one
- Stir fry pan
For the ginger broth
- 3 tbsp tamari or coconut amines or soya sauce if you're not gluten free
- 200 mls vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp chopped or grated fresh ginger
- 2 cloves of garlic sliced
- black pepper to taste
For the stir fry
- ½ medium red onion sliced
- ½ medium red pepper thinly sliced
- ½ head broccoli florets and stems separated and finely sliced
- 100 grams green leaves eg winter greens, Brussel sprout head, kale, cabbage etc
- 200 grams extra firm or firm tofu drained
- 2 nests noodles wholewheat, rice or buckwheat
- 1 red chilli finely sliced optional
- 2 tbsp fresh coriander roughly chopped
- ½ lime cut into 2 wedges
- If using tofu that needs pressing, pop it into a tofu press or following the instructions in the main blog at least 3 hours before you plan to eat. The longer you leave it, the crispier it will be.
- Make the ginger broth first by popping all the ingredients into a small pan. Gently bring to the boil then simmer for 15-20 minutes to all the flavours to develop. You can do this earlier in the day if desired to allow the ginger to infuse longer for a deeper flavour.
- If baking the tofu in the oven, pre-heat the oven to 220ºC. Chop the tofu into small bite sized pieces and pop in a small bowl with a little tamari to cover. Cover a baking tray with non-stick baking paper then sprinkle the chopped tofu over the top. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, turning from time to time.
- If using an air-fryer, prepare the tofu as above then place in the air fryer basket and 'fry' at 200ºC for 10 minutes, giving it a good shake after 5. If the tofu is not crispy, 'fry' for another 5 minutes.
- Pop the noodles in boiling water and cook as per packet instructions. Once soft, drain and rinse then pop them in the base of the bowls you are using.
- Once all the other elements are cooking, heat a couple of tablespoons of water in the base of a stir fry pan. Add the sliced onion, red pepper and stems of the broccoli. Fry for a couple of minutes before adding the broccoli florets and chopped greens. Continue to stir fry for a few more minutes until the veggies are cooked but still crunchy.
- Now all your elements are ready, spoon the cooked veg over the noodles then pour the broth into both bowls - it won't cover everything but will be over half the veggies. Toss to mix everything together.
- Scatter the crispy tofu over the top and garnish with red chilli (if using) and chopped fresh coriander. Serve with the lime wedge on the side.