The Boy occasionally decides that he loves something. And often it’s something I don’t understand. A few years ago, he decided that he LOVED tofu and he’d order it whenever he could. And invariably, he’d end up eating my meal when his wasn’t quite what he expected. Eventually, he realized that, when it’s not prepared well, tofu can be pretty flavorless. And then we discovered the spicy tofu cubes on the food bar at Whole Foods. We had lunch there one Sunday after Hebrew school and I threw a couple of them in my salad. Lo and behold, they were amazing. Marinated in some Asian sauces, sauteed until slightly crisp and tossed with some kind of sweet chili sauce, we became addicted. We would toss them in with Whole Foods Asian Noodle Salad for an easy lunch any time we stopped in there. I bought it a few times to pack for his school lunch and he didn’t deem it too weird or embarrassing (again, who knew lunch could be an embarrassment) but then it sort of fell off our radar.
And then Kosher Boy reared his head. The Boy decided he really wanted to try to keep kosher. I can appreciate this and was happy to try to accommodate him with a few caveats. To TRULY keep kosher, we’d have had to do a big change up in the way we cook and we’d have had to purchase separate meat and dairy dishes. So we compromised on being “kosher style” for a month. So Kosher Boy’s normal Turkey and Cheddar wraps had to go for a month and I had to try to come up with meat free lunches that were packed with protein and that weren’t peanut butter and jelly every single day. I decided to try to replicate our favorite mish mash dish from Whole Foods as something of my own.
Having never prepared tofu, I really didn’t know what to get. And none of the recipes for “Spicy Asian Tofu” were quite right. They were all served hot and many were fried sort of in the style of a General Tso type dish (which frankly, sounds pretty darn good). I was pretty much on my own to figure it out.
I kind of knew what to do with the pasta. There’s a great Asian noodle recipe from Publix Aprons that we eat quite a lot (and which I tried out and adapted here). I’ve figured out that whole wheat spaghetti has a very similar flavor and texture to soba noodles so I knew I’d start with that. Beyond that, I was winging it. But I’ve made this a few times now and finally figured out the right amounts of the ingredients I was looking for.
This is pretty good warm but it’s equally good cold and will keep for two or three days in the fridge. If you are one of those folks that likes to prepare your lunches for the week, this is a perfect one for you to prepare on Sunday afternoon and take to work or school for the next few days.
Asian Marinated Tofu
- 12 ounces extra firm tofu (usually in the produce section)
- 4 T sesame oil, divided
- 2 T low sodium soy sauce
- 2 T hoisin sauce
- 2 T Sriracha sauce
- 2 T sweet chili sauce
- 1/4 rice wine vinegar
- 2 T vegetable oil
Spicy Asian Noodle Salad
- 12 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
- Coarse kosher salt
- 4 T sesame oil, divided
- 1/4 C low sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 C rice wine vinegar (plus possibly a little extra)
- 1/4 C sweet chili sauce
- 1/4 C smooth peanut butter
- 1/2 C “matchstick” carrots (I buy bags of these for salads and wraps)
- 1/2 C thinly sliced red onion (I only had a yellow onion this time)
- 2 clove garlic minced
- 1 inch ginger, grated
- 1/2 C thinly sliced yellow or red bell pepper (optional)
- 1/4 C sliced green onions
- 1/4 C chopped peanuts
- 1/4 C rough chopped cilantro
Remove tofu from package and discard liquid. Place between two paper towel lined plates to squeeze out excess moisture while you make your marinade. I also put a big can of tomatoes on top to really put the squeeze on it. Combine 2 T sesame oil, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sriracha, sweet chili sauce and rice wine vinegar in a large zip top bag. Mix well. Remove tofu to cutting board and cut into 1 inch cubes. Add to marinade and toss well to coat. Marinate 1-4 hours.
Preheat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 T sesame oil and 2 T vegetable oil to pan. When hot, add tofu cubes (save your marinade) and saute until brown on all sides. You’ll turn them about once every minute or two. Pour reserved marinade over crispy tofu cubes to coat in sauce. Remove to a bowl. You can eat them now or reserve for the noodle salad. Wipe out pan if you are making noodle salad as you can use it again now.
For Noodle Salad:
Bring large pot of water to boil. Salt generously and add spaghetti. Cook a minute or two less than recommended and drain.
Meanwhile, whisk together 2 T sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sweet chili sauce and peanut butter. It should be very smooth. Reserve.
Heat remaining 2 T sesame oil over medium high heat. Saute onion until softened and just beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, carrots and bell peppers (if using) and saute until just beginning to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add reserved sauce and turn off heat. Add pasta and green onions, tossing with tongs to coat well. Taste and add more vinegar as needed. Top with peanuts, crispy tofu and cilantro. Serve and enjoy.