I sometimes plan fantasy trips where I go to Japan, take trains everywhere, and get to eat all the local delicacies at the train stations. It sounds so much more exciting than any Greyhound station stop I've ever been to: fresh, local specialties almost inevitably with a vegan option? Sign me up, please.
Planning such a fantasy trip is how I first learned about foxes and tofu. In Japan, fox-spirits are said to really like aburaage, deep-fried tofu. Noodle dishes with aburaage are called kitsune-udon or kitsune-soba depending on the type of noodle - and the tofu is cut into triangles to mimic the shape of fox ears! Now I'm hard pressed to cut tofu in any shape but triangular whenever I make a Japanese meal. Or any meal, really.
baked fox-ear tofu and ginger bok choy
makes 2 generous servings
baked fox-ear tofu
- 1 lb medium tofu, pressed for one hour and cut into fox-ears
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 2 TBSP rice vinegar
- 2 TBSP tamari
- 2 TBSP toasted sesame seed oil
- 1 tsp chili flakes
Mix all the ingredients together in a non-reactive container then marinate the tofu for at least one hour and up to overnight. If marinating for longer than one hour, refrigerate.
After the tofu has marinated, preheat your oven to 400 for 20 minutes. While your oven is preheating, prep your ingredients and start your water boiling. When you put the tofu in the oven, cook your noodles first, drain the water and then cook your vegetables if you are a heathen like me who uses the same pot.
Bake tofu for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Prepare the noodles of your choice according to directions. When I use buckwheat noodles I use 3oz dried per person (a bunch slightly less big around than a quarter) and boil them gently for 4 minutes each portion and then drain and toss with toasted sesame oil in individual serving bowls to avoid sticking.
ginger bok choy
- 1 tsp canola oil
- 1 small red onion, cut into thinly sliced half-moons
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 TBSP fresh ginger, minced
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 heads bok choy, ends trimmed
- 1 tablespoon tamari
Preheat a large pot or skillet over medium heat. Saute the red onion in the oil for 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Saute for another minute or so. Add the bok choy and soy sauce. Saute for another minute, until the leaves are wilted.
Top the individual bowls of noodles with the tofu and the boy choy. Serve immediately.
The ginger bok choy here is from Appetite for Reduction, I just use more bok choy without separating the stems and leaves, slightly less tamari, and serve it a little differently. It isn't very traditionally Japanese, but it is very much in the spirit of local and seasonal produce.
You can easily substitute any green vegetable in season here - broccolini, sugar snap peas - I've even used cabbage. Just make sure to not overcook.
Cook your noodles first and then your vegetables. Once you toss the noodles with the oil, cover the bowl with a plate to keep warm. If everything is timed right, your vegetables will finish up at exactly the same time as the tofu. Otherwise just keep whatever's done first warm. It'll still taste good.
You can also use firm tofu here; medium tofu happens to be the house favorite. If you like a chewier tofu, bake for longer.
Garnish with sliced green onions and toasted sesame seeds, if you like.
I don't deep fry anything, so I bake the fox-ears. I think fox-spirits would still like them!