Sesame-crusted tofu with soba noodles

Wow, what is this, it’s like an actual food blog. I wanted something with soba noodles the other day, and after an extensive search of my recipe folders (I just started to write foodlers, which I guess is semiaccurate) and Google (oh, maybe I was just trying to combine folders and Google. That’s not as funny) I found this. I am always wary of Eating Well because their recipes are healthy, but they regularly taste really good, so it’s OK. Also, there’s no photo of the final product, so maybe they never actually cooked it.

Also also, it uses both Chinese and Japanese ingredients. (There’s Chinese black bean sauce and fermented Chinese black beans—which I omitted because I didn’t have any and because I am scared of them—but also soba noodles, which I thought were generally Japanese. And who knows where watercress comes from, or really, what it is.)

(Sidebar about watercress. I have a fear of watercress because when I was very young, I read a book about a boy who was making a sandwich for his little sister. The little sister demanded all sorts of ingredients, including watercress. This was the first time I had ever heard of watercress. The boy made her the sandwich, but included all sorts of bugs, including centipedes, which are obviously the worst thing in the world. Or maybe earwigs. Anyway, that’s all I could think about when I was buying watercress the other day.)

When I was brainstorming this post I wanted to write about the Authentic in cooking, but it will have to wait because I was mostly asleep when I was brainstorming and can’t remember any of the terribly insightful, beautiful things I was going to say. Basically, I want to cook authentic things, because I think it matters, but I don’t know how. I don’t think it’s enough that food be tasty. I think I would rather it be authentic. Somehow this was tied to literature, but I don’t think I ever figured out how. I suppose I fell asleep.

Long story short, I really liked this. It was really salty, but really flavorful, and somehow big. I felt very fancy making the tofu—I’ve never done it in solid pieces before, only sauteed in bite-size chunks—and I love anything that contains scallions, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Jury is out on watercress; I’d probably sub arugula next time.


Sesame-crusted tofu with soba noodles
Very slightly adapted from EatingWell.com

Dressing:
2 tbsp rice wine or sake (I used mirin—maybe partly why it was so salty)
1 1/2 tbsp black been sauce (can be found in Asian grocery stores and possibly some supermarkets)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp water

Tofu:
1 14- to 16 oz package extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup rice wine or sake
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil, divided

Soba:
8 oz soba noodles (can be found in Asian grocery stores; not sure about regular supermarkets, unless they are huge)
4 c trimmed watercress (NO idea what this means. I was just picking off the leaves, which was massively annoying, so next time I’ll definitely just chop up the stalks and hope for the best)
1 c thinly sliced scallions (I used all except the very bottom, which I saved in a cup with some water to grow back)
3 tbsp sesame seeds

Slice tofu in half lengthwise, then slice each piece in half again. (No idea if this makes sense. Make four pieces that are half as thick as the original block. Ugh, sorry, this makes no sense.) Encase in paper towels; put a large plate or saucepan on top, then put some heavy cans on top. Leave for twenty minutes or so—this drains the tofu. (I always do this, but the recipe doesn’t say to; perhaps you’re not supposed to, to prevent extreme marination?? But it came out well anyway.)

Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl; stir until sugar has dissolved and set aside.

Combine tofu sauce ingredients (but only one tsp of sesame oil!) in a dish just large enough to hold tofu in a single layer (I used a large frying pan). Add tofu; cover (oops! did not do that) and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning once.

When tofu is almost ready, cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water until tender. (This may happen faster than you anticipate. Mine took about three minutes.) Drain and place in a large bowl. Combine extra tofu marinade with dressing and add to the noodles, along with watercress and scallions. Toss to combine.

Spread sesame seeds on a plate. Dip tofu into seeds to coat one side. Heat one teaspoon sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook tofu sesame-side-down until golden. Some sesame seeds may fall off. Turn tofu and cook the other side until golden.

Plate in a charming and whimsical manner.

He was (is) still alive, but I did feel the need to check. Also, I blurred out the words on the notebook he was sitting on, and that is pretty cool.

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