Who doesn't love Vietnamese food?!? Everything about it has so much flavor and is so refreshing.....especially the noodle bowls. One place that makes one of the best is called Little Saigon in Orlando, FL. I have been ordering and eating their noodle bowls for a few years now, and I think I finally have mastered how to make a good vegan vietnamese noodle bowl. This recipe seems complicated, but it's actually pretty simple. You just have to be good at timing things out when cooking different ingrediants. It does take some time because of the draining of the tofu and chopping of vegetables, but well well worth it! You can always skip the tofu if you are short on time, and have the same wonderful outcome!
Just some quick notes: I used what I had in my fridge... feel free to experiment with whatever vegetables you have available. I happened to have baby bella mushrooms, but this would be great with shiitake, or any other Asian mushroom. But, I was very pleased with how the baby bella mushrooms turned out.
I use Braggs liquid amino just because it is lower in sodium than soy sauce, and I can't tell the difference much in taste, but any type of soy sauce will do. If you use soy sauce... try to use tamari or shoyu vs any type with preservatives.
As far as the vegetable broth goes... use any kind you like. I use Kitchen Basics. There is way less sodium and they don't use MSG. It's totally natural. I used to use Swanson until I realized they used MSG. If you don't have it available, use water, and just adjust the ingrediants to taste.
I don't use a lot of salt ever. As you can see, I didn't mention using any except for flavoring the tofu. The Braggs and vegetable broth have enough sodium so there is no need to ever use salt in this dish. I originally did not cook the tofu with salt, and it was a little bland, so I added it in the recipe. Just use a small amount to taste.
As far as heat goes on the stove.... I use medium to high heat... you want to hear everything sizzle, but you don't want it to be so hot that it smokes and your food starts to burn. So, use your judgment on that.
Vegan Vietnamese Pepper and Garlic Noodle Bowl with Spicy Tofu
Rice Sticks (1/2 of a bunch) - You can find these at your local Asian grocery store. Buy a lot of them and use them often!
4 to 6 Baby Bella Mushrooms (or any kind of mushroom you like), sliced
1 bunch of Broccoli
1/2 red pepper (cut into big cubes)
1/2 green pepper (cut into big cubes)
1 bunch green onions (white parts and green), cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Cut the green slices longer since they cook different
1 Yellow Onion (small or half of a big onion, cut into med to large cubes)
4 good size cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablspoons Braggs liquid amino or soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable broth (or water)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
For the Tofu:
Firm or Extra Firm Tofu (not silken)
red pepper flakes
sea salt to taste
a handful of chopped lettuce
a small handful of chopped cucumber
about a tablespoon of fresh cilantro
about a tablespoon of fresh basil, cut into slices
You have to be able to time this dish right so that the veggies stay crisp while you are cooking the tofu and noodles. But, if you have a hard time cooking a lot of things at once, you can always cook the tofu first, then the veggies second, and noodles last. You know how you work best in the kitchen, so use your judgment. It might take some practice, but I know you can do it!
Fist you have to drain the tofu. It's pretty simple. Use about three paper towels folded on a plate. Place the tofu on top of the folded paper towels. Then, use the same amount of paper towels on top of the tofu, and place something heavy on top of that. You might want to use a large freezer bag in between the top paper towel and whatever you are using to drain the tofu. The reason for this is that if you are using a book you like, you want to avoid a water stain on it. I used a phone book, so I could care less. You want to flip the tofu about 10-15 minutes in and change out the paper towels. Continue to drain on the other side. Once drained, cut into med to thin slices length-wise.
While the tofu is draining, start chopping up the vegetables as mentioned above. During that time you might be able to flip the tofu, and start draining the other side. You will eventually cook the veggies and tofu in a separate pan. For the veggies I use a wok, and the tofu I use a big skillet. ....but use what you have.
Don't start cooking the veggies until you get the tofu started. After you have sliced the tofu - it's time to season it. Sprinkle your desired amount of garlic powder, minced onion, red pepper flakes, and sea salt on the tofu. Take your fingers and pat the seasonings in. Then flip the tofu over and do the same on the other side.
Get everything ready on the stove
-a pot ready with water in it for the noodles
-the wok - with the liquid ingrediants in it.
Coat the large skillet with sesame oil and olive oil... not too much... just enough to coat the pan. Heat the pan to med-high heat and when it is hot, place the tofu in carefully. You can cook in two batches if you can't fit it all in the pan. You want to cook about 10-15 minutes on each side, flipping carefully. You might have to go back and forth between cooking the veggies in the wok to flip the tofu. The tofu should be a golden brown, and crispy on the outside when finished. Some pieces, depending how thin and what part of the skillet it's on, take longer, so just be patient.
While that is cooking, heat the liquid ingredients in the wok on medium-high heat, and when it is hot start by putting in the garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes and put in the onions and cook for about 3-5 minutes until cooked through, but crispy. This might be a good time to boil the water in the pot and begin to cook the noodles according to the instructions on the bag. While you are waiting for the water to boil for the noodles, continue to cook the veggies in the wok. Throw in the peppers and until desired doneness (about 2-3 minutes), then the mushrooms, then the green onion, and last the broccoli. Then, top with the black pepper. I used probably about one teaspoon. Mix everything together and continue to stir-fry for a few more minutes. You want everything to be cooked through, but crispy....the broccoli should be bright green and the mushrooms should be sauteed. Even though I say 3 to 5 minutes... you are the judge of when something looks cooked. Don't forget about the tofu!
Drain the noodles when they are finished cooking. When the tofu is done, remove it from the pan and place on cutting board or paper towel or plate... your choice. Turn the wok on low heat at this point, and pour the drained noodles into the wok. There still should be some liquid, so toss everything together until the noodles are coated with the sauce. I like to cut them in half... it makes it easier to toss. Turn off the wok and remove from heat. If you leave it on the heat, then the noodles will start to stick... so remove immediately.
Transfer the noodles and veggies to a bowl. throw in a handful of lettuce and cucumber, a pinch of cilantro, and about two leaves of sliced basil. I cut two pieces of tofu into matchstick slices and placed on top. Mix together
I love this dish because there is so much flavor involved depending on what you get in each bite whether it is a refreshing piece of cucumber, the spiciness of the red pepper on the tofu, or the freshness of the cilantro and basil. You can't go wrong with this dish, and you will probably have left over tofu for about three more meals... so you don't have to go through all of the work of draining and cooking it again for awhile. Please try it out and let me know what you think. Afterwords... you can do what I did... make some Rooibos tea and sit on your porch and watch the storm while typing up a recipe. It makes for a peaceful and fulfilling night.