Contrary to what some people think about me, I am not against vegetarianism or veganism. Less animal consumption is not only healthier but better for the environment as well. Husband and child aside, I’m pretty laissez-faire when it comes to other people’s eating habits along with how their beliefs and views impact their dietary preferences. I think it’s important to be tolerant and respectful in this manner and I don’t judge morality based on what a person eats for dinner. If you are vegan, good for you! If you eat meat, good for you! I don’t care. It’s your body, your life, and your decision. However, what I do judge harshly is food. It seems to me that there is a misconception that vegetarian and vegan food is boring and bland. For me, a person who partakes in eating anything and everything, the absence of proper seasoning is more of a culinary sin than the absence of butter and bacon (AND I equate making something with ‘love’ as the same as making something with a lot of butter). Some of my favorite dishes are actually animal product free for the sheer fact that they are properly seasoned and spiced.
Take for example, Indian food, which has a large variety vegetarian dishes (and vegan if you substitute the ghee and yogurt for other ingredients) that are rich in depth of flavor and spice. People who cook great Indian food know how to work with ingredients to bring out the best possible combination of flavors and they do not shy away from spice. It’s not boring at all but vibrant instead.
So when I’m at home and experimenting with a meatless and/or dairy free recipe, I always remember what all of my favorite vegetarian/vegan foods have in common and that is that they utilize ingredients big on flavor. For me that means spice, soy, chili, garlic, ginger and vinegar. Luckily, this recipe soaks up all of those flavors with tofu, oyster mushrooms and rice noodles. This noodle dish makes a great light lunch or even a side dish to vegetarian or non-vegetarian entree.
Sweet Soy and Chile Rice Noodles with Tofu and Mushrooms
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
3 cloves garlic
200g/7oz firm tofu
2-3 king oyster mushrooms
1 tbsp salty soy sauce
3 Scallions (white parts divided from green shoots)
150g/5.5oz Rice noodles
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp sweet soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp Chinese chile oil (click here for an easy recipe)
crushed peanuts for garnish (optional)
Using a damp cloth, clean the mushrooms and cut lengthwise into thin strips and then in half making 1in/2cm chunks. Cut tofu into a similar size to match. Toss together chopped tofu and mushrooms in a bowl with 1 tbsp salty soy sauce, chopped ginger and chopped garlic. Set aside and let marinate for 15-30 min.
Meanwhile, boil rice noodles for 2-3 min, then immediately drain to prevent it from over cooking and becoming mushy. Combine sweet soy sauce, rice vinegar and chile oil together in a small bowl and set aside.
Add 1-2 tbsp of oil in a large wok over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add white scallions and stir fry for a minute. Then add tofu and mushroom mix and stir-fry until tofu is crispy and mushrooms are soft (about 3-5 min). Add green parts of the scallions and fry for a minute before adding the drained rice noodles and sauce mix. Toss to combine and top with crushed peanuts for an added crunch.