Part of me wants to call this my fever salad, as “fever” is an often-used moniker for lemongrass, the crisp, astringent herb native to tropical regions of Asia and Africa. Two years ago I found myself in front of the Indian Ocean, the sand a blanket before my feet, and I remember feasting on a plate of noodles tossed with lemongrass. The meal was simple, citrusy, fragrant and delicious, and as the sun dipped into the ocean, rendering the water a vibrant pink hue, I felt feverish. I felt as if I’d never feel this calm or free again. I blasted the Bird and the Bee’s “Preparedness” on repeat and as Bali succumbed to the night, folded into its darkness, I lay down on the shoreline, plate by my side and counted the stars.
You may also have noticed I’m on a bit of a noodle kick. Between chowing on pasta and rhapsodizing about my major life change, I haven’t kept track of what I’ve been posting here, it’s just been raw and organic. However, I promise to hit the stand mixer soon because I’m missing my biscuits and fluffy cakes.
INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Blue Apron (Serves 3, generously)
1 large bunch Chinese broccoli (you can also use spinach or bok choy)
2 cloves garlic
1 small piece of ginger
1 stalk lemongrass
1 package extra-firm tofu
1 lb (16 oz) soba noodles
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
4 Birdseye chilies
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Wash and dry the Chinese broccoli. Roughly chop the leaves (I’m not a fan of the stalks so I nix them) and finely dice the scallions. Set aside. Peel and finely chop the ginger + garlic, and set them aside as well. Chop off the ends of your lemongrass and peel the stalk until you get to the tender, pale center. The exterior will be pretty fibrous, and as your peel the herb will become more tender and fragrant. Finely chop the lemongrass core and set aside. Press out the excess water out of the tofu with a paper towel and cut into one-inch cubes. As you can tell I wasn’t entirely successful in the cutting process, however, as long as your tofu is drained of all water and is browned on all sides who cares if it’s not pretty as a proverbial picture?
When the water comes to a boil, add the soba noodles and cool until tender, 4-6 minutes.
While the noodles are cooking, line a plate with a layer of paper towels. Heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in a medium skillet set to high heat and toss in your tofu, making sure that the tofu browns on all sides, 8-10 minutes. You want to stir occasionally, not like I did, and ended up making what resembles a vegan scramble, but then again this reminded me of the texture of pad see ew, so life is grand. Season with salt + pepper and transfer the tofu to the lined plate when done.
Drain the noodles and rinse with cool water. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, diced scallions and juice of 1/2 a lime. Toss until well combined and season with salt and pepper to taste.
In the pan you used for the tofu, add a splash of olive oil and toss in the broccoli, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, whole chilis and cook for 2-5 minutes until the greens are verdant and wilted. Add the hoisin sauce and toss to combine.
Divide the soba noodles between three bowls and top the noodles with the delicious tofu + Chinese broccoli mixture. Serve hot, or you can absolutely feast on this as a cold salad.