Signature Vegetarian Dish: Stir-fried Eggplant and Tofu with Glass Noodles
A few weeks ago I blogged about having a first apartment signature dish and included a recipe for a simple steak dinner. Now it’s vegeterians’ turn to learn an Asian-flavored stir-fry.
One of the most challenging things when cooking a vegetarian meal is creating something that has substance–something satisfying and at least somewhat protein-rich. There are several ingredients that can make your vegetarian cooking stand up to meat-centric recipes (without always having to resort to using “fake meat” products). Beans, mushrooms, tofu, nuts, grains, and hearty vegetables are all filling and in most cases quite nutritious. This simple (yet impressive) stir-fry recipe has some nice Asian flavors and is quick to cook after the initial prep is finished.
The key to properly stir-frying is to have all your ingredients complete ready before you start cooking. Long-cooking ingredients go in early, and fast-cooking ingredients go in at the end. You use high heat and work quickly, so being organized is essential. (Keep each ingredient in a separate cup after it is prepped since they are to be added one at a time in a specific order).
1 block extra-firm tofu, diced into 1/2” cubes
2 shallots, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin (1/2 to cook, 1/2 for garnish)
1 large eggplant, firm skin, peeled and diced 1/4” cubes
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
1 package of Saifun (mung-bean thread noodles) or other rice noodles
1 cup diced summer squash, 1/4” cubes
1 cup torn greens (kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, etc.)
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha (or other Asian chili paste) optional
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (substitute white wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons sake or mirin (substitute white wine and 1 teaspoon sugar)
3/4 cup vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
-Sesame Seeds (black and white, lightly toasted in a dry saute pan just until fragrant.
-Shredded Nori (dried sushi-seaweed) Slice thinly, width-wise, with a very sharp knife.
-“Omelet Garnish”-Beat two eggs together with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar, and 1 tablespoon cold water. Pour mixture into a warm and oiled non-stick pan and tilt the pan to form a thin layer of egg. Cook gently until set, then either flip the “omelet” or slide it onto a plate and turn the uncooked side back into the pan for 30 seconds. Slide the cooked circle of egg onto a cutting board and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, roll the egg into a tube and make thin slices across the tube to create long ribbons of cooked omelet garnish.
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of soy sauce and simmer the bean thread noodles for 12-15 minutes, or until tender, then drain (discard liquid) and run the noodles under cold water. Toss them with a teaspoon of oil and hold to the side. Note: If using other noodles, check the cooking directions on the package as some Asian noodles require soaking before/instead of boiling.
While the noodles are cooking, cut the tofu, mushrooms, eggplant, summer squash, shallots, garlic, ginger, scallions, greens (washed and torn by hand into bite sized pieces) and any garnished you plan on using. Keep all ingredients separate.
You are now ready to stir-fry!
-Start by cooking the shallots, garlic, ginger, and scallions in 2 tablespoons of oil until very fragrant, but not colored at all (30 seconds). Then add the chili paste if using.
- Add the cubed tofu (pat dry, seasoned with salt and pepper) and stir-fry until lightly colored
- Next, add the diced eggplant and cook on medium-high heat until lightly colored (don’t burn the garlic)
- Add the sliced mushrooms and summer squash. The liquid in the mushrooms will cool the pan off, so continue on medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the noodles and toss to coat them in the cooking oil.
- Add the soy sauce (1 tablespoon only), rice vinegar, and sake/mirin all at once. Reduce the liquid until it is thick and nearly evaporated.
- Add 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth and the torn greens. Simmer for 3 minutes (or until the sauce is thickened). Add more liquid if too dry.
- Taste the stir-fry and adjust the seasoning with more soy sauce and black pepper if needed.
- Use tongs or chopsticks to portion the stir-fry into bowls. Pour the liquid evenly over each serving and top with your choice of garnishes… ENJOY!
Note: A lot of these ingredients may be things that you don’t necessarily have lying around the house, but the sake, vinegar, seaweed, and chili paste all keep well, aren’t too expensive, and are great ingredients to have at your disposal down the road!
Non-Vegeterian Option: Also, this “formula” can be applied to any stir-fry! Change the vegetables, the seasoning, and the garnishes. Use chicken stock, beef stock, or fish stock if you don’t like mushrooms. Add bean sprouts, peanuts, fish sauce, cilantro, lime, chili flakes, chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, whatever! Maybe top your vegetable and noodle stir-fry with a piece of teryaki-grilled salmon! Either way, just have fun…and don’t be afraid of a little heat!