Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thai Peanut Noodles with Crispy Tofu and Mago

Volunteering at a library bookstore does has its perks. Most importantly, I get them half off. Secondly, I get first pick of some beautiful cookbooks (and other books) for gifts and personal use. At two different library bookstores I’ve found editions of Food & Wine Magazine’s series, Best of the Best. I love the series because it is literally a collection of the best recipes from the top cookbooks of the year. That means you get an incredible variety of recipes from some of the best chefs and writers around. This one from the simply titled Recipes by Susan Spugen is no exception. 

Peanut Noodles with Mango is a simple Asian inspired dish that is easy to recreate at home. The recipe as is really good as a side dish but I wanted to make an entree for two hungry people. So crispy fried tofu seemed like a good fit. Chicken, or shrimp would also be delicious in place of the tofu. I like how crispy thinly sliced tofu gets in a shallow oil bath inside a dutch oven. That baby makes frying TOO easy. You can also pan fry the tofu in a skillet with just a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

I was afraid this recipe would be a little out of our normal dinner comfort zone as it is served cold. To my delight and surprise, Aaron loved this unconventional dish and promptly scarfed it down in about a minute. He also called dibbs on the leftovers. That’s how I know I have a hit on my hands.

I just happened to have a lovely soften mango and sugar peas on hand, so luckily this dish came together quite easily. I often keep toasted sesame oil on hand because it adds so much flavor. Try to get if you can. I also recommend a couple dashes of Thai fish sauce if you want to add a little umami to a dish, which is slighlty the sweeter side.

Another adaption I made to the original recipe was the use of PB2 instead of peanut butter. You can definitely use regular smooth peanut butter if you have yet to discover PB2. One reason that I recommend the former is the addition of flavor with only a ¼ of the calories of regular fatty peanut butter. The addition of 45 calories per tablespoon versus 200 calories of the traditional condiment makes this a little lighter for a weeknight meal. If you are serving this as a side dish at a barbeque, go ahead and use the regular stuff. I don’t believe in reduced fat peanut butter. There, I said it.

This is a crowd pleaser and perfect for when the weather gets a little warmer and the produce gets fresher. For kids, the mango and tofu are optional. They’ll love the peanut sauce! I’m sure you will too.

Peanut Noodles with Crispy Tofu 
and Mango
(Adapted from Recipes by Susan Spugen featured in 
Food & Wine’s Best of the Best, Volume 9)
For 2-3 entrée sized portions

For the Peanut Sauce

½ cup PB2 peanut butter prepared with ¼ cup water, or ½ cup regular smooth peanut butter
3 tbsp. warm water
1 ½ tbsp. rice vinegar
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. grated or finely chopped fresh ginger root
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
¼ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. vegan sugar
¼ tsp. black pepper

For the Noodles
½ lb. spaghetti noodles (thicker, not thin noodles are best)
1 cup sugar snap peas or snow peas, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 lime, juiced
1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
½ cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1-2 green onions, chopped
optional: ¼ cup roasted peanuts, chopped for garnish
sriracha and sesame oil for serving

For the Tofu
½ block extra-firm tofu, sliced into ½ inch strips, then cut in half
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
water and salt for soaking
Vegetable oil

Gluten-free version: Simply replace tamari sauce for soy sauce, don’t flour the tofu, and use your favorite gluten free spaghetti noodles.


Add all ingredients for the sauce to a small food processer or blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use. (you can make this 2-3 days ahead of time)

In a small bowl, mix chopped mango with lime juice and a pinch of salt. Chill until ready to serve.

For the noodles, bring a pot of salted (2 tsp.) water to a rolling boil. Add spaghetti and cook according to package instructions. You don’t want soft noodles, so cook just a little more than al dente since you will chill noodles until allow them to rest to doneness.

At the last minute of cooking time, stir in snap peas to pasta water, cooking for no more than 1 minute until bright green and softened. Once pasta and peas and cooked transfer to a large colander and rinsed well with cold water at least twice so noodles do not get gummy with the chilled toppings and peas do not get over cooked.

Toss noodles and peas in the peanut sauce until well coated.

For the tofu, add slices to a shallow baking dish with warm water and 2 tsp. salt. Soak tofu for at least 15 minutes. Pull slices out and place on a plate or cutting board lined with paper towels. Cover slices with more paper towels and gently press down to press out water. Repeat one to two times until tofu is no longer soaking wet, only slightly damp.

In a shallow bowl, combine flour, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and peppers.

If deep-frying, heat a large dutch oven or cast iron pot over medium heat with enough vegetable oil to cover bottom by about two inches. Test by dropping a piece of green onion into the oil. It is ready if the onion begins to sizzle on impact.

Once oil is hot, bread tofu slices in the flour mixture on both sides. Working in batches, carefully place slices in the hot oil and fry for 3 minutes, then flip for an additional minute, until both sides are lightly brown and crispy. Carefully take pieces out of the oil and place on paper towels. Sprinkle slices with the salt.

Serve dish as soon as the tofu is cooked. Spoon noodles and peas on plates, top with chopped cilantro, green onions, mango and tofu slices. Drizzle plates with additional sesame oil and top with chopped peanuts. Serve with sriracha.


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