Vietnamese Noodles with Peanut Sauce Tofu (Bún)

Vietnamese Noodles - Bake Braise & Broil

This is one of my absolute favourite dishes to serve friends who haven't had much experience with Vietnamese dishes, or aren't into "salads". It's basically a bunch of fresh and quick-pickled vegetables, herbs, a protein, and a delicious umami-sour dressing over a bed of rice noodles. I personally don't think it constitutes a salad, but apparently the internet insists on calling it a salad. Don't let that throw you off, though - this dish is incredibly filling, fresh, and incredibly versatile. Every bite is a flavour burst - sour, umami, salty, herby freshness, peanut butter!! I love it.

You can make this with all kinds of meats, but this time I made it with peanut-sauce coated tofu.

Vietnamese Noodles Tofu Press - Bake Braise & Broil

The first thing I do is press the tofu to squeeze out some liquid. In theory I start well before I want to make the meal, but in reality I end up us doing this an hour or two before - the longer you go, the crunchier your final product will be. I do this in a really logical manner... tofu goes between two not-flat plates, on top of which a precarious pile of books gets built. Usually this pile falls off once or twice...(or ten times). There's probably an easier way to do this. Please tell me how.

Vietnamese Noodles Carrots - Bake Braise & Broil

In between bouts of picking up the perilous tofu book-tower, I prep the other parts of the dish. First, the pickled things. I happened to have pickled carrots already in the fridge, but you can easily quick-pickle other vegetables (daikon, radish, anything firm and crunchy) in vinegar, a pinch of sugar, and salt. You can use a vegetable peeler to make thin strips if you want to do this really quickly.

Vietnamese Noodles Fresh - Bake Braise & Broil

Then, prep the fresh items - really thinly cut iceberg lettuce, herbs (mint makes it amazing, and basil and coriander often make appearances in my version), and cucumber. At this point I also get some water boiling for the rice noodles (they only need to go in until just soft, then drained quickly to stop the cooking). If you want a hot dish, then start this later, if you want a cold dish, you can do this earlier. I think warm is just right.

Vietnamese Noodles Sauce - Bake Braise & Broil

The sauce gets made - it's part fish sauce, lime, and brown sugar, then diluted with hot water. Chop in some fresh chillies if you want a spicy kick. I've made it once with soy sauce instead of fish sauce to make it vegatarian, it was a pretty good substitution (gotta pump up the lime though).

When all that is prepped, my attention goes back to the tofu. I pour off the liquid and cut it into sticks. 

Vietnamese Noodles Tofu - Bake Braise & Broil
Vietnamese Noodles Tofu 2 - Bake Braise & Broil

Then, I coat them in a generous layer of cornstarch, and into a well-oiled pan at med-high heat.

Vietnamese Noodles Tofu Cornstarch - Bake Braise & Broil

A thick sauce made up of peanut butter, soy sauce, and chillies gets poured directly onto the fried tofu.

 
Vietnamese Noodles Peanut Tofu - Bake Braise & Broil

Still on high heat, the tofu gets fully smothered in the sauce, until it's all hot.

Vietnamese Noodles Peanut Tofu - Bake Braise & Broil
Vietnamese Noodles Lemongrass - Bake Braise & Broil

For some extra crunch, I fried up the white parts of a few stalks of lemon grass - to be honest, I don't think this added much to the dish... though it does make it fancier! Stick to the usual roasted peanuts for crunch.

Vietnamese Noodles Mixed - Bake Braise & Broil
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The final step is to pile it all on top of the noodles, then pour on some sauce and mix it all around. This is a great meal to feed a group, as everyone can cater to their own preferences. 

Hope you love the fresh flavours as much as I do!

 

Recipe here.

Guacamole Black Bean Pasta

Guacamole & Black Bean Pasta - Bake, Braise & Broil

AVOCADOS! Even if avocados didn't boast such magical properties (HEALTHY FAT! YAH! WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? ...WHO CARES!), I'd still put them in everything because they're nature's tastiest fruit. This dish is so easy and can be made in no time - as long as your avocados are ripe. Yeah, that's the thing. Unripe avocados are the worst. Even worse than making eye contact with someone through the crack in the bathroom stall door. But that's a discussion for another time. Onto the cooking!

guacamole-black-bean-pasta-beans

First, fry up some onions and garlic until they're browned and delicious, then add some black beans. Spice them up however you want. I suggest cumin, paprika, salt, cayenne, love. Not necessarily in that order.

guacamole-black-bean-pasta-avocados

Then, blend up some guacamole...don't forget to squeeze in a ton of lime cause those suckers need some love and affection. I'm assuming limes love our hands bear-hugging them, otherwise why else would they be so difficult to extract liquid from?

guacamole-black-bean-pasta-tomatoes

Chop up some tomatoes and cilantro, then sprinkle some salt over it (for some reason "sprinkling salt" makes me think of this.)

guacamole-black-bean-pasta-plate

Mix your pasta and avocado sauce together, then pile everything else on top. Splash on some olive oil if you're into that (I'm into that). Dig in, and enjoy the fact that you're being healthyfat!

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