In my last blog post, I talked about how a lot of my dinner recipes don’t end up on here for various photogenically-challenged reasons. Well, here’s one for you – if you will excuse the hasty phone-snapped photos, with the mise-en-scene being me ferrying my bowl of noodles about the house searching for a corner or recess where they might appear inviting. That’s how delicious this recipe is, I just have to share it with you even though the photos aren’t the greatest. (Although, we’ve already dealt with photos worse than this, if more stylistically confident.)
And to be fair, even if the photos were more thought-out, this is still a very pale and unlikely looking dish of warmed through tofu and rice noodles, with that layer of coriander doing some very heavy lifting, visually. I promise you, it’s more seasoned than it looks, and it’s so good. This recipe, a version of which initially ended up in my 2013 cookbook, gives you everything: it’s practically instant, it’s carbonara-level creamy and soft and saucy, and it’s superbly comforting. And while there is definitely chilli present, it’s sedated and dispersed by the coconut cream.
That being said, there’s nothing stopping you from adding more and more gochujang (Korean chilli paste) to the recipe – this is comfort food with the ability to bite you back, if that’s what you need. And I’m certainly not going to leap out from the third draw down and protest if you want to add less chilli, but I’d at least urge you to start small and see how you go, rather than leave it out altogether, at which point this would become a dish I couldn’t recommend in good conscience. The gochujang adds heat, yes, but in a way that reminds you of life’s bracing potential rather than the metallic clank of your imminent mortality.
Coconut Chilli Tofu Noodles
These near-instant vegan noodles are so comforting and creamy but also as spicy as you want or need it to be. Recipe by myself. Serves 2.
- 1 x 200g (or thereabouts) package wide rice noodles
- 1 large onion
- 3 garlic cloves (or a hefty dash of garlic powder)
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil (eg rice bran)
- 300-400g extra firm tofu
- 2-3 tablespoons gochujang, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons Maggi seasoning sauce, or soy sauce
- a squeeze of lime juice (I sometimes use vinegar if I don’t have any lime)
- 1 x 400ml can full-fat coconut cream
- large dash of ground white pepper
- a dash of sesame oil and a handful of fresh coriander, to serve
1: Peel and finely slice the onion and finely chop the garlic. Place the noodles in a heatproof bowl, cover with water from a just-boiled jug, pushing them under the surface of the water with a utensil of some kind, and set aside to soften. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan and fry the onions and garlic in it for a minute or two, until they’re softened and starting to colour.
2: While this is happening, take a moment to dice the tofu into good-sized cubes of about 2cm. Please don’t stop to measure. Stir the gochujang into the onions, then add the tofu and give it another stir. Then add the Maggi sauce, the lime juice, the coconut cream, and the white pepper. Quarter-fill the empty coconut cream can with tap water, swirl it around, and tip it into the pan as well. Bring to a robust simmer, and stir till the tofu is heated through, which should only take a minute or two.
3: Drain the noodles, add them to the pan, stir everything all together, taste to see if it wants more chilli or seasoning, then remove from the heat and carefully divide between two bowls.
Shake over a few droplets of sesame oil and roughly tear the coriander leaves, blanketing each bowl of noodles with them.
- I used to just make this with sriracha or, if I had one to hand, a chopped red chilli. The Korean fermented chilli paste gochujang is now my favourite and recommended method of adding chilli to these noodles. It’s just got so much flavour and depth and intensity. I got mine from an Asian supermarket, I think Countdown stocks it too. It does pack a lot of heat on its own which seems to chill out in this recipe, but if you’re really not sure of your tolerance just start with a small teaspoon of it, then augment after the noodles are added if necessary.
- You can definitely use coconut milk instead of coconut cream, I just tend to exclusively use coconut cream because you get maximum flavour and texture for your buck. Either way: full fat.
- I guess you could use something other than wide rice noodles. But I wouldn’t want to! They work so perfectly here.
If you want to make this more soupy and saucy you can simply add more water, I’d maybe throw in a stock cube as well.
- I use Maggi sauce in everything and strenuously recommend that you find some if you aren’t all over it already. You won’t be sorry.
- Finally, if you can find vegan oyster sauce, add a splash along with the Maggi or soy sauce.
Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’ by Damon Daunno and Mary Testa from the 2019 Broadway revival of Oklahoma! which, without changing a word of the book or score, made this familiar classic into something new altogether, and I wish so much that I’d had a chance to see it live. This version of the opening song gives it this incredibly compelling mournful-yet-sexy bluegrass vibe, and I can’t stop listening to it. I also recommend Ali Stroker’s brash, unapologetic, and Tony Award-winning take on I Cain’t Say No, worth listening to for the way she roars the word “chaps” if nothing else.
Nine Million Rainy Days by The Jesus and Mary Chain. While it’s not my favourite song of theirs, it perfectly represents one of my favourite genres of music, which is “gloomy yet exhilarating”. And that line “and all my time in hell was spent with you” is better than anything I’ll ever write. (My favourite of theirs? The exhilarating-yet-exhilarating Head On, of course.)
Ode to the Wind, by 1960s Texas garage band Danny and the Counts. It’s melancholy and gorgeous and it’s a literal crime that their music isn’t more widely available on Spotify!!
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