Floral, citrus-y lemongrass combines with coconut milk, ginger, and garlic to coat golden brown pan-fried tofu and stir fry vermicelli noodles that are served with crisp, fresh vegetables.
The Tuesday following Labor Day was the most Monday-est Tuesday ever. This short week has kicked my butt and we’re looking forward to a long weekend up north with friends celebrating friendship…and Piper’s 7th birthday (tomorrow). How, how, how is my BABY 7? She kicks off birthday season in our house with all but me having a birthday in the next 4 weeks!
As much as I’d hoped to get “back on track” with a schedule this week, it didn’t quite end up that way. I cooked a few times, but most dinners were simple or simply not blog-worthy. This lemongrass tofu, however – so very yum! We go through periods of eating tofu pretty regularly before Mark makes a request for less tofu, but generally speaking we all love it, including the kids. Tofu is ALL about the preparation and this recipe offers great flavor, color, and texture!
ROLL CALL FOR THIS RECIPE
- Vegetarian Delight: You don’t have to be vegetarian to love vegetarian proteins. Try something new – this crispy tofu will not disappoint!
- Thai meets Vietnamese: My most favorite Thai flavors of lime, ginger, and coconut combine with the traditional Vietnamese vermicelli noodles, and lemongrass that is shared amongst both cuisines. There is no one star of the show – this dish contains more than one secret ingredient that are well-loved in both Thai and Vietnamese food.
- All-in-One Meal: This meal is made of fresh ingredients and is complete with a starch, protein, and veggie offering. I love a meal that includes every component of a balanced meal, including colorful veggies! It’s a perfect light meal!
KEY INGREDIENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Tofu: Firm, extra firm, or super firm tofu work best in this recipe to hold up when cooking and provide a dense, “meaty” result. You can use tempeh if you prefer. If wanting to include a meat, chicken pork loin would make great substitutes. Lemongrass chicken is delicious! Feel free to use your choice of protein.
- Salt & Pepper: Tofu and all of the ingredients in this recipe are low in sodium – a bit of salt enhances the flavor of the tofu and the final dish. You can try with less salt or a salt substitute, if you prefer. Any salt will do, however a fine grain is best to most easily distribute throughout as a very small amount is used!
- Avocado Oil: Neutral, heart-healthy avocado oil has a high smoke point and is good for “frying”. Olive oil can be substituted in.
- Vermicelli: Rice vermicelli noodles are gluten-free and have a fun, stretchy texture that holds up well. If you prefer, soba noodles (also referred to as buckwheat noodles) are a great gluten-free pasta alternative. Any pasta or rice would be great to swap in here. Follow the package instructions to cook and cook until al dente (although these are very forgiving noodles in that way).
- Coconut Milk: Canned coconut milk is unsweetened, thick, and rich in fatty coconut flavor. Shake the can well before opening or mix/whisk before measuring out the 1/4 cup. There are coconut cream and reduced fat canned coconut milk options and any will work well.
- Lemongrass: I love using a lemongrass paste — fresh lemongrass is tricky to mince! While most pastes are gluten-free, they are not all vegan. Be sure to check ingredient lists!
- Garlic: Fresh garlic is best and feel free to add more or less to your liking! The jarred garlic is just to use, as is garlic powder — 1/2 teaspoon would be recommended.
- Ginger: Fresh ginger root that has been peeled and minced or a tubed ginger paste are both great options. In a pinch, 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger will suffice as a substitute.
- Soy Sauce: Choose a low-sodium soy sauce variety, if available. Salad dressings are high in sodium, as is, and the additional salt is not needed. Not all soy sauces are gluten-free, so do be sure to check for gluten or contamination. Coconut aminos would be a great alternative that is naturally gluten-free.
- Honey: To make this recipe vegan, use a pure maple syrup of agave.
- Lime: Fresh lime juice is much preferred to a lime juice concentrate. You may need a bit of additional honey (or slightly less lime juice) if using concentrate as it tends to be a bit more tart and tangy than fresh. Lemon juice is a good substitution for lime juice.
- Carrot: I love the fun texture and look of matchstick cut carrots and LOVE that they’re available prepared in most produce departments. I keep them on hand for all sorts of things – tossing in salads, soups, smoothies, omelets – there’s no shortage of ways to use them. That said, any carrot preparation is great!
- Cucumber: I love English cucumbers (also called Persian cucumbers) that have a more tender skin and less seeds. They are longer and less seedy than a traditional cucumber. However any cucumber will do! A zucchini could also be used in its place if you like raw zucchini (I do!)
- Green Onion: Also referred to as scallions, green onions are milder than onions themselves. Green onions contain a more pungent and flavorful white portion with a milder and beautiful green portion. Use both green onions portions in this recipe for the best results and maximum flavor!
- Allergen-Friendly: easily made gluten-free, dairy-free by checking labels or making a few simple substitutions.
- Vegetarian with vegan option: use fresh versus tubed lemongrass and ginger, sub syrup for honey, and use a gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos
- This recipe is rich in fiber and low in sodium (for a meal)
- Soy consumed regularly can aid in cardiovascular health and improved cardiovascular risk factors
What is the difference between extra firm and super firm tofu?
Super firm tofu is slightly lower in water content than firm tofu making it easier to remove moisture and can hold up a bit better (especially if using in a soup) and gets a crispier exterior when baking or frying.
What’s the trick to pan frying tofu?
First, drain and press the liquid from the firm, extra firm, or super firm tofu. A regular or silken tofu will not hold up during the cooking process. Heat the oil until shimmering and hot before adding the cubed tofu. Arrange in a single layer and cook until golden before rotating each cube in the pan. You do not want to over-cook and dry out the tofu, so generally 8-10 total minutes is best.
How can you mince or grate fresh lemongrass?
The thicker end of the lemongrass stalk is more moist and flavorful. Remove the outer layer of the lemongrass that is tough and woody. Chop off the end and grate on a box grater, finely chop with a large knife, or use a mortar and pestle to create a paste. Alternatively, you can pulse in a food processor or mini food prep with a few teaspoons of water.
VARIATIONS, STORAGE, and TIPS
- Follow the package directions when making thin rice noodles and be sure to rinse with cold water so that you don’t end up with a massive noodle clump. You can rewarm the noodles when adding to the pan and heating through with the sauce.
- Any number of fresh veggies can be added to this dish: red bell pepper, mung bean sprouts, snap peas all sound delicious! For additional flavor, you can add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar or sesame oil to the sauce mixture.
- Serve with fresh herbs such as Thai basil, cilantro, or fresh mint leaves as well as fresh lime wedges.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Store veggies separate from the vermicelli and tofu for rewarming purposes, or serve at room temperature. This recipe tastes great the next day and is the perfect lunch that is also a filling lunch.
- You can always double up on the sauce – there’s no such thing as too much flavour!
- If you want to add an accompaniment to this meal, spring rolls are a fun way to go!
- 1 lb super firm tofu
- 1/4 tsp salt and black pepper, to taste
- 2 Tbsp avocado oil, divided
- 10 oz dry vermicelli noodles
- 1/4 cup canned coconut milk
- 2 Tbsp lemongrass paste or puree
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp ginger paste or puree
- 1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce*
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 1 1/2 cups matchstick-cut or shredded carrots
- 1/2 English cucumber, cut into half moons
- 1/4 cup sliced green onion
- Heat a large pot of water over high heat, bringing to a boil.
- Drain all liquid from the tofu and place between layered paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, gently pressing liquid from the tofu block.
- Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
- Heat 1 tablespoon avocado oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the tofu cubes and cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden. Turn and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with water to avoid sticking.
- In a bowl, combine the coconut milk, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, honey, and lime juice; whisk to combine.
- Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the coconut-lemongrass mixture over the tofu and toss to coat; remove to a plate.
- Add the cooked vermicelli to the skillet and pour the remaining coconut-lemongrass mixture over the top; toss to combine and heat through.
- Serve the tofu on top of the vermicelli and alongside the carrots and cucumber, topped with sliced green onions.
*use coconut aminos or a gluten-free soy sauce to ensure gluten-free
Nutrition Information:Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1/5 recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 423Total Fat: 14.4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 431mgCarbohydrates: 55.4gFiber: 4.6gSugar: 9.8gProtein: 16.8g
Tofu lover? It’s all in how it’s prepared! Yumm!
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