Bok Choy with Soft Tofu and Glass Noodles
Some call it stir-frying. Others call it fighting the system.
Yesterday, my dorm room served as three vastly different spaces: a bedroom (obviously), a yoga studio, and most importantly, a kitchen.
How relaxing was it to do an hour and a half of Jhivamukti (my first time), move the chairs back, pull out the good ol’ induction burner, and make the perfect wintry, post-yoga meal?
Yoga guru Shira and I wanted something soothing, ideally with lots of broth and leafy greens. Despite the bagel brunch I’d attended the previous day (where at least a few pounds of lox were consumed), my Chinese side was itching for a bowl of rice. Where was FOOG at a time like this, when he could make me stir-fried vegetables or whole fish the drop of a hat?
At times like these, I am forced to become my own father, although the following recipe is a complete bastardization of the kind of stir-fry he would make. Because I don’t have the luxury of multiple burners, a one-wok (one-pot, get it?) meal was in order.
I had a colossal bunch of bok choy just waiting to be conquered, a jar of plump, freshly peeled cloves of garlic sitting in the fridge (a cook’s best friend), and an entire drawer of dried Asian goodies like mushrooms, noodles, and dried shrimp.
This in addition to a block of so-called “soft” tofu, which I found out, to my dismay, is completely different from silken tofu, which would be much better for this dish.
But no matter. Without any sort of plan of action, I began. Unorthodox, maybe, but mushrooms, tofu, and glass noodles found themselves into this stir-fry, along with massive quantities of vinegar (surely this is dishonoring my ancestors).
It turned out to be one of those days where the Cooking Gods are merciful, and with just a spoonful of cornstarch, the broth became a savory gravy, full of chewy mushrooms and slippery vermicelli. The ginger and garlic added just the right amount of pungency to what would otherwise be a bland dish.
We set the table with my favorite octopus plates. We filled our bowls with freshly steamed brown rice and an obscene amount of greens. Chili paste, of course, was served on the side.
How can anyone question that food is nourishment when you eat a meal that makes you feel satisfied on so many levels? And considering the whole process took place within a seven-foot space, there was something magical about it.
Thank you, bok choy. Namaste.
Bok Choy with Tofu, Shiitakes and Glass Noodles
- 1 huge bunch bok choy, leaves separated from stems if they’re really thick
- A two-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 TBSP peanut oil
- 1 package soft tofu (silken would be better), sliced into one-inch squares
- 2 bunches glass noodles
- 1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water and sliced
- Reserved mushroom-soaking water
- soy sauce
- salt and pepper
- Chinese black vinegar
- 2 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in cold water
- Optional: sesame oil/ sesame seeds (I actually forgot to add this)
- If necessary, chop the bok choy stems into bite-sized pieces and set aside, since the leaves will cook down much faster.
- Soak mushrooms and glass noodles (separately) in hot water. When the noodles are softened but not too mushy, drain. RESERVE THE MUSHROOM WATER FOR COOKING.
- Heat 2 TBSP peanut oil over high heat. When it’s smoking, add the garlic and ginger, stir-frying rapidly until golden and fragrant. Turn down the heat.
- Turn the heat back up and add the bok choy stems and enough of the mushroom cooking water so that they don’t stick, plus maybe a TBSP of soy sauce. Bring to a bowl and then turn down. Cover until the bok choy stems are just slightly crunchy.
- Turn the heat back up and add the greens, the remainder of the mushroom broth, and a healthy dose of vinegar. Keep stir-frying until the leaves fit comfortably inside the wok.
- Now add the mushrooms and noodles. Stir-fry so that the noodles are dispersed throughout (but try not to break them).
- Gradually add the corn starch mixture so that the sauce is slightly thickened without being gloopy. Taste for additional soy sauce and vinegar.
- Add the tofu and gently distribute into the stir-fry. Keep the heat relatively high so everything gets hot.
- Taste again and serve over rice with chili paste on the side.