Over vacation, my mom and I were talking about—what else?—my blog. I realize this makes me look an insufferable, meta blogger, blogging about a conversation about my blog, but this story has a point. She joked with me, “Your blog’s tag line is ‘Gourmet dorm room cuisine,’ but almost all your posts are about meals you’ve had at restaurants.” She had a point. Frankly, I just don’t cook at school as much as I thought I would when I started this blog. This stems from three factors: 1) not wanting to lug my cooking supplies down to the kitchen, which is in the basement, 2) not having the time/motivation, and 3) the stars often not aligning when I want to cook (e.g., the kitchen being locked or in use whenever I want to use it). In any case, I was reflecting on this today while cooking dinner for myself in the dorm kitchen. So here’s a post true to the original mission of the blog. Better yet, it’s a one pot meal that takes about twenty minutes to prepare. I’ve been making this dish for years; it’s an adaptation of a recipe I found during my vegan days on veganyumyum.com.
I started by soaking some noodles (four ounces is good for two people) in very hot tap water. The original recipe calls for wide, flat rice noodles (which I prefer), but I could only find thin rice noodles (I used brown rice noodles and they were pretty good). The package says to soak the noodles for six to eight minutes, but I let them soak until I was ready to use them (probably twelve minutes).
Then I whisked up a marinade using a couple tablespoons of soy sauce, a couple tablespons of water, two smashed cloves of garlic, a few slices of ginger, about 1/2 teaspoon of mustard, and a pinch of sugar. In the spirit of “gourmet dorm room cuisine,” I got the soy sauce and mustard from the dining hall.
Then I poured the marinade over drained extra firm tofu that I cut into eight triangles. If you can, wrap the tofu in a towel and press it with a heavy object to get out the extra moisture. I didn’t do this. Full disclosure: I didn’t even cut the tofu on a cutting board, because I didn’t want to dirty another dish.
See how I marinated the tofu in its little container? One less dish!
I didn’t marinate the tofu for long at all. I just waited for my cast iron skillet to get hot, added a splash of oil, and then threw in the tofu (reserving the marinade). Here’s another confession: I don’t have any neutral oil (e.g., canola, peanut). I have olive oil and hot chili oil. So, I used the chili oil to cook the tofu. That’s why I didn’t add any spicy ingredients into the marinade. If you have neutral oil, add some chili oil or sriracha to the tofu marinade. I think that when chili oil gets really hot it is kind of like pepper spray (makes sense, right?), because after breathing in the chili oil fumes I launched into a rather unpleasant coughing fit. Is it too late/in poor taste to make a UC Davis joke here?
After searing the tofu on one side, I added the reserved marinade to the pan. This gives the tofu extra flavor. Once the tofu was well-browned on both sides, I put it back into its carton. Then I added a half pound of shredded kale into the pan with a few cups of water. I let the kale cook for about seven minutes, until it was nice and tender.
Once the kale’s done, you can either remove it from the pan and pan-fry the noodles, or you can just assemble the dish. I chose to skip the hassle and simply add the noodles in with the kale, mix it up, and serve, topped with the tofu triangles.
There you have it—a simple, healthy meal that requires only one pan and twenty minutes of your time. You don’t need any fancy equipment or even a nice kitchen to make this meal. Need proof? I present to you:
Exhibit A: The kitchen I used to prepare this meal.
In case you can’t tell, my gargantuan pan is teetering, almost comically, on one of the stove’s tiny burners. Still, the dish came out very well. Dorm room cuisine at its finest.