Sunday, September 11, 2011

Spicy Tofu Bento Bowl

When I'm looking for healthy and flavorful meals to make, I enjoy searching ethnic cuisines to find new and exciting flavors to explore and bring the flavor of different countries to my table. Tonight, it was Japan.

I found this recipe gem in The Vegetarian Times October 2006 edition. I took some culinary liberties and changed their recipe a bit by baking instead of frying the tofu to save on calories and time, and I switched yogurt out for vegan sour cream to make the recipe vegan. I also omitted the avocado because I didn't have one. This recipe is so easy that even Chef Boy Ardee couldn't screw it up. Here's the adaptation that I made:

If you like a little heat with your veggies you really should make this. Here's how:

Start with the garnish: Toasted Sesame Seeds. These are, of course, optional, but this extra step is totally worth it because the nuttiness adds to the flavor profile, and the crunch offers texture. I do this first because I might forget to do them later, and they really make the dish!

1. Preheat a small skillet (medium low). Add 1 TB raw sesame seeds.

Toast them until they are golden brown. You can tell they are almost done when you their aroma is released, about 6-7 minutes. Flip them around to toast them evenly. I always like to try my fancy pan-flipping chef moves here ;-) Set aside. They will look like this when they're ready:

2. Spicy Tofu: Drain & press a block of tofu. Cut into cubes & set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together 1/4 c low sodium soy sauce (regular soy sauce will be too salty for this), 1/8 c or more of sriracha sauce (a.k.a chili-garlic sauce, I love Huy Fong because they have a chicken on the front of the bottle. Nah, just kidding. It tastes like sriracha should taste, but I do love that chicken picture, ha!).

Try adding this sauce little by little until you reach the heat you like. I added the full amount and it was a bit too spicy--almost burned my tongue!), and 2 TB dark toasted sesame oil. 

Toss in your tofu cubes & stir gently with a wide spoon to coat evenly. Let it marinate while you move onto the next step.

3. In a small bowl whisk 1/4 c sour cream & 2 TB fresh lemon juice to set aside.

4. Bake tofu for 15 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown on edges. Keep marinade--you'll need it in the next step. While your tofu is baking cook some rice for a base.

5. Pour lemon juice/sour cream mixture into the original marinade. Add cooled tofu & toss to coat. Set aside.

6. Prep your veggies. Rinse a few handfuls of greens (I used a healthy organic hodgepodge of tat soi, spinach, tango, lolla rosa, red & green romain, red & green oak, red & green chard, mizuna, radicchio, frisee, beet greens, arugula, red mustard, collards, and kale). You can just use lettuce and whatever other leafy things you like. If you don't have a Salad Spinner I highly recommend that you get one. They are fantastic!

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Photo from
I the Salad Spinner I bought before we got married for this; it's a tool I could not live without even on a deserted island. Hey--deserted islands have veggies! Anyway, it dries your salad greens completely--just be sure to lock the lid tight. Once I forgot to and had a gingantic vegetable tornado! What a mess that was, but I digress...

Slice up a small cucumber into thin slices, and shave a carrot.

6. In your serving bowl add a layer of your rice. Then, rest a thick layer of your greens on top of the rice. Next, pile on some of that spicy tofu, and a layer of carrot and cucumbers. This is kind of like making a Japanese lasagna (sans pasta carbs!). Add whatever veggies you really like.
7. Sprinkle toasted sesames on the top and serve with a side of the marinade. Another wonderful thing about vegan cooking is that you don't have to discard & waste the marinade you worked so hard on! Sit down at the table and beru o kabutta! or "voila!" in Japanese.

Leftovers are great, too!

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