21 November 2013

Maggie's Vegan Yakisoba

Before I started working here at Earlham, I worked at a school in the far western part of New York state called Alfred. The town of Alfred (home to Alfred University, where I worked, and Alfred State College, a branch of the SUNY system) is a very small town. It has just about 1000 year-round residents. However, with two colleges in the town, the students bring the population up during the school year and make it so that the town hosts a reasonable variety of restaurants, bars, and little shops, including a natural foods store!

One of the restaurants we frequented most in Alfred is called Nana's Japanese Cafe. It is freaking amazing. Shana and I both especially loved the tofu yakisoba that is at Nana's, as the sauce is phenomenal. When we realized we were moving, we questioned many times whether or not we would ever have such delicious yakisoba again, since we're there in the summer when we visit, but Nana's is closed during the summer. So, we tried to get the recipe, but it didn't work. We've had friends who are still there try to get the recipe, but it hasn't worked. We'd all but given up. However, this week we both decided it was time to take matters into our own hands and make a recipe.

After some googling, I mashed together an assortment of recipes that I thought might come close to the taste of Nana's yakisoba sauce (mostly inspired by Mark Bittman's Minimalist video from 2010). Although the sauce I made isn't identical to Nana's, it's a more-than-worthy comparison. I mean, this dinner was simply outstanding. In addition, yakisoba is designed to be fast food, and this recipe is fast and easy!

Rockin' the Alfred cup in honor of Nana's. 
Maggie's Vegan Yakisoba
These are the noodles we used.
Ingredients
3 T. ketchup
3 T. worcestershire sauce
2 T. soy sauce
1/2 T. sriracha sauce
1/2 T. sugar
2-3 inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into large chunks
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 small head bok choy, chopped with stems and leaves separated
8 large leaves napa cabbage, chopped with stems and leaves separated
2 large carrots, grated
1 block extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed (see Helpful Hints)
2 envelopes of soba stir fry noodles (14 oz. total weight)
4 green onions, chopped

Directions
1. Combine the ketchup, w. sauce, soy sauce, sriracha sauce, and sugar in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well to combine.
2. Pour some oil (I used about 2 T. toasted sesame) in a wok over med-high or high heat and add the ginger. Saute for 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for another minute.
3. Add the stems of the bok choy and napa cabbage, saute for a few minutes.
4. Add the carrots and tofu, saute for another couple of minutes.
5. Add the noodles, leaves of the boy choy and napa cabbage, and green onions, saute for another couple of minutes.
6. Shake the sauce again and pour it over everything in the wok, stirring well to combine.

Helpful Hints
  • On a technicality, I did not cook my tofu the way I have listed above. If you cook the tofu the way I have listed above, you will have relatively soft tofu, but it's much faster. If you'd like it to be a different consistency, you can certainly saute it separately, cook it on a non-stick skillet/griddle, or anything else. For our dinner I actually broiled my tofu. 
    • To do this, cube the tofu and put it in a bowl. Toss the tofu with some oil and soy sauce, then broil for 30 minutes, flipping the cubes halfway through. I make sure to line my cookie sheet with non-stick foil, as tofu is sticky. If you want to do this the night of your yakisoba, start the tofu broiling before anything else. Alternatively, you can broil the tofu a day or so ahead of time and then add it where indicated above, just so that it heats through. 
  • Shana and I don't like super spicy food. If you like things with more heat (this has a lovely warmth to it), add more sriracha sauce or another type of hot sauce. 
  • There is no need to actually use soba noodles for this dish. You can actually use any type of noodles you like. 
  • Finally, the ginger. We like the flavor of ginger, but I wanted it to be less prominent in the dish. Thus, I ended up cutting the two inch piece into approximately 1/4 inch chunks. This allowed for a taste of ginger without being overwhelmed by ginger, as we could simply avoid eating the giant chunks. If you really like ginger, I'd recommend using about a 1 or 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger and then using a microplane grater. This should dramatically enhance the flavor of the ginger. 

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