If you’ve ever had crispy fried noodles in a Chinese restaurant, you’ll know how great they are and why I couldn’t wait to put a recipe with them out there. The only reason it’s taken me so long is that I haven’t been able to find the right noodles. In the Chinese restaurants they use egg and wheat noodles to achieve the desired crispiness, which is no good for us vegans. I have tried this with rice noodles in the past and only got a clumpy mess in exchange for my efforts.
Happily, I came across something called Protein Noodles in my local Morrison’s. They were essentially egg noodles without the egg. When I saw them, I immediately thought of the crispy fried noodles I used to love so much and bought a couple of packets in the hope that they would work.
They performed exactly as I had hoped and came out of the fryer beautifully light and irresistibly crunchy. The rest of this dish was built around these noodles, but they complement each other perfectly. All of the fresh ingredients in this came from Morrison’s, as I was in there anyway getting the noodles. I don’t know if they sell the noodles in other supermarkets, so do let me know if you find them elsewhere.
I used a tofu press on the extra-firm tofu for about an hour, to get it as dry as possible, which is essential as you are going to deep-fry it until crispy. If you don’t have one, use your standard tofu-pressing method, just be sure to squeeze it long enough to remove the maximum amount of water. You can buy a selection of woodland mushrooms in a packet at the supermarket, or you can choose your own from your local supplier. The satay sauce you can make before anything else and then reheat it when you are ready to serve the meal.
Prep time: 20 minutes (plus pressing time). Cooking time: about 35 minutes
For the Satay Sauce:
1 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 small onion, very finely diced
2 tsp garlic puree
1 can of coconut milk
1 tsp veg stock (make sure it’s vegan)
2 tsp vegan fish sauce (optional) You can get that here
2 heaped tbsp smooth peanut butter
The juice from 1 lime
1 ½ tbsp dark soy sauce
1 level tsp ground cumin
1 tsp madras curry powder
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
150ml cold water
For the Tofu:
Enough vegetable or sunflower oil for deep frying
I x 400g block extra firm tofu, pressed for about 1 hour, until most of the water is removed
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Stir-Fry:
1 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 red onion, diced
1 yellow or green pepper, diced
1 x 150g pack woodland mushrooms (or whatever variety you prefer)
1 pack fresh protein wheat noodles (or similar fresh wheat noodles)
A few red chilli slices to garnish
First make the satay sauce. Heat the groundnut and sesame oils and a saucepan and gently fry the onion for about 4-5 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic puree and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring often.
Now pour in the coconut milk and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the veg stock, the vegan fish sauce (if using) and all the other sauce ingredients. Bring back to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, until you have a slightly thickened peanut sauce. Turn off the heat and set aside until needed.
Now you’ll want to fry the tofu. Place it on a board on its edge and cut through its thickness to produce 2 thinner rectangles. Now cut these rectangles into either 4 or 6 pieces each, depending on how large you want them.
Half-fill a good-sized saucepan with the frying oil and bring up to temperature. You can test this by placing a piece of tofu into the oil. It will begin to gently bubble around the tofu when it is ready. If it does not, remove the tofu with a spoon and leave it a little longer.
Fry the tofu for 6-8 minutes, until it is golden and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on some kitchen paper or a towel. Generously season with salt and pepper while it is draining. You can keep the oil on a very low heat as you will be using it again in a while for the noodles.
For the stir-fry, heat the two oils in a wok or large frying pan and cook the onion, pepper and mushrooms together on a medium-high heat for about 6-8 minutes, until cooked and slightly browned. Add the fried tofu and cook for another 2 minutes, then pour over as much of the satay sauce as you would like. Simmer vigorously for about 4 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce has reduced.
While this is simmering, it’s time to fry your noodles. For this you will want a slightly lower temperature than you used for the tofu, and you’ll want to make sure that there is plenty of room in the pan, as the oil will rise when you put the noodles in. The first time I did it the oil spilled right over the top of the pan and all over the stove, so make sure your pan is large enough to allow for this. Put in a few noodles to test the temperature (the oil should start to bubble straight away) and, when it is ready, cook HALF of the noodles at a time. This will prevent the oil from rising too much and also allow you to serve them up in two batches, as they will come out pretty much in one piece. Fry the noodles for about 4 minutes or so, until you can see that they are crispy. Remove with either a slotted spoon or tongues and drain on some kitchen paper while you cook the second batch.
To serve, place the crispy noodles in the bottom of your bowl. Spoon over the satay stir-fry, and then top with a few slices of fresh chilli.