Noodles, tofu, leeks and greens in coconut sauce with lime and coriander

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A soothing noodle dish, where the vegetables are simmered gently in a thin coconut sauce and finished with the enlivening flavours of lime juice and fresh coriander. It is served fairly wet, halfway to soup, so give people spoons to go with their forks or chopsticks. If you don’t have a fresh chilli to hand, use a dried one, either finely ground or left whole, and take it out when the vegetables go In. This is a mild dish, but feel free to Increase the chilli levels if you want something more exciting. The vegetables too can be varied; green beans, radishes, fennel and thinly sliced roots are all good, though I think it works best with only two or three types. If you don’t use leeks add a little onion to the vegetables or some scallions at the end.

Ingredients

  • 100 g tofu
  • 50 mls pineapple juice
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 700 mls water or light stock
  • 1 tblspn grated ginger
  • 1 large fresh chilli, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsps coriander seeds, ground
  • 80 g creamed coconut
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 tblspn soya sauce
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 leek, about 150 g
  • 100 g cabbage - savoy, spring green, kale or any oriental cabbage
  • 1 pack of thin egg noodles
  • 2 limes
  • small handful of fresh coriander

Method

THE TOFU SHOULD BE CUT INTO SMALL DICE and marinated for at least two hours. Use the marinade or simply dilute some shoyu with water and add a little grated ginger. Take the dice from the marinade, drain them for a minute on paper or cloth, then fry them in hot oil until lightly browned.

To start the sauce, place the juices in a pan with 200 mls of the water, the ginger, chilli, garlic and coriander. Bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat for eight to ten minutes. Chop the creamed coconut and add it to the pan with the tomato puree, soya sauce and the rest of the water. Bring back to the boil and simmer again for a further five minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the carrot in half lengthways, cut these pieces in half across, then slice these into thin strips. Slice the leek and the cabbage into similar strips. Put the vegetables into the coconut sauce and bring it back to the boil. Tough cabbage, and savoy often is, is best cooked separately first in boiling water for a minute to soften and shrink it a little. Spring greens or any oriental greens can go straight into the coconut sauce with the rest of the vegetables. Simmer very gently for a few minutes, until the cabbage, leeks and pepper are tender. If you do this very gently, the vegetables will cook slowly, absorbing the flavours of the stock, without boiling away the liquid. Add the fried tofu for the last minute of cooking.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the pack instructions, then stir them into the cooked vegetables, using tongs or chopsticks to mix everything thoroughly. Use tongs to share the noodles and vegetables between four plates, then pour over the sauce left behind in the pan. This can be a messy procedure when you’ve got more than two portions in the pot, and a less stressful approach is to divide the cooked noodles between four bowls, pour the vegetables and sauce over them and do the mixing in the bowls, or even leave everybody to their own mixing. Offer halved limes, to be squeezed over the dish, and lots of chopped fresh coriander.