Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Rice Noodle Salad Bowl with Sriracha Tofu

Sometimes I enjoy hunting ingredients. I set aside part of day to drive around town from market to market to find just what I need for some recipes I’m planning to tackle. But, there are definitely times when the convenience of gathering what’s needed at one grocery store is necessary. If you’ve ever backed away from trying any Vietnamese recipes because of the challenge of an ingredient hunt, your worries are over. Andrea Nguyen’s new book, Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors, of which I received a review copy, shows you how to achieve great results with what you can find in any grocery store. This book was inspired by her mother’s resourcefulness when their family first arrived in the US in the 1970s. There weren’t nearly as many Asian products available in grocery stores then, and they had to make do with what they could find. They embraced learning about and becoming part of their new surroundings while continuing to honor Vietnamese culture. Today, many products you would need for Vietnamese dishes like fish sauce, rice noodles, and rice paper are available at most grocery stores. But, she offers some great ideas for substitutes for things that are more difficult to find. For example, if you can’t easily find tamarind, you can use pomegranate molasses for a similar tart flavor. She even includes a recipe to make your own from pomegranate juice. And, if the size of rice noodle you want isn’t on offer with other Asian products, try checking the options among the gluten-free pastas. The recipes cover all types of dishes from snacks to desserts, and I’ve been having fun trying several of them. First, I was excited about the Grilled Trout Rice Paper Rolls. I found brown rice paper and used it for the first time. I also had pretty, dark purple lettuce leaves that I brought home from Boggy Creek Farm and some homegrown cilantro and mint. The mixture was very pretty sitting on the rice paper before I rolled it up and realized that dark purple lettuce under brown rice paper was not photogenic at all. It was delicious, just not great for photos. And, the homemade Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce was fantastic with the rolls. I also tried the Roasted Cauliflower “Wings.” They’re a vegan version of Chile Garlic Chicken Wings. Both recipes appear in the book. The cauliflower became incredibly crunchy after roasting with a rice flour coating, and the dipping sauce was addictive. The Gingery Greens and Shrimp Soup was a marvel. The flavor to effort ratio was unparalleled. Onion was cooked in oil with salt, fish sauce and water were added, and it was boiled for a few minutes. That alone created a flavorful broth for the soup. Incredibly fresh, chopped Swiss chard and snow peas from the farmstand cooked briefly with shrimp in the broth. This was one of the best soups I’ve ever made. In the book, there are also tempting rice and noodle dishes, chicken and fish dishes, egg and tofu dishes, and desserts like No-Churn Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream that I can’t wait to try. But, my next stop in the book was for the Rice Noodle Salad Bowl with Sriracha Tofu. 

There are notes throughout the recipes that offer suggestions for substitutions for some ingredients or ways of making the recipe vegetarian or vegan if it isn't already. The Rice Noodle Salad Bowl is topped with marinated and grilled beef or chicken, but the notes suggest topping it with Sriracha Tofu instead. That’s what I did. To make the tofu, it was first cut into domino-like pieces. In a skillet, water, soy sauce, and sriracha were combined. The tofu pieces were added, and it was cooked until bubbly. The tofu pieces were flipped, and when the liquid in the pan had evaporated a little oil was drizzled over the tofu. It was left to cook for a few minutes before being flipped once again. The tofu pieces took on an orange and brown color from the sauce. For the noodle bowl, rice noodles were cooked, and I found a brand that I really like shown in the photo below. I wanted to include some pickled vegetables and made a quick pickle from carrot and kohlrabi matchsticks. The toppings were prepped including crispy fried shallots, chopped cashews, lettuce leaves, cucumber ribbons, sliced chiles, cilantro, and mint. Homemade Nuoc Cham made with maple syrup, lime juice, water, rice vinegar, fish sauce, and chiles served as the dressing. The noodles, lettuce leaves, and vegetables were arranged in bowls. The chiles, cashews, and herbs were added on top, and the sriracha tofu was the crowning glory. 

The fresh flavors of all the vegetables with the simple, citrusy sauce makes for a light and lovely dish with great texture from the noodles. This way of cooking tofu is one I’ll be using often. It’s a quick and easy process, and the tofu was delicious. I might not bother fitting this book onto the shelves just yet. There’s lots more I want to try as soon as I can.

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  1. This is such a great looking dish -- looks like it's loaded with flavor. Sounds like a neat book, too -- thanks!

  2. Those sriracha tofu slices look really great!

  3. I just adore salad bowls like this, that are loaded with beauty and health.

  4. Oh Lisa, this is such a delicious looking rice noodle dish and I love the idea of the spicy tofu. Thanks for the recipe...have a great weekend!

  5. I'm interested in making some Vietnamese recipes using rice paper with different fillings. Sounds like this recipe book might lead me in the right direction! I've fried tofu squares before but adding the soy and sriracha sauce sounds like a neat idea!

  6. My daughter will surely heart this bowl of deliciousness.


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