Soba Noodles with Crispy Kale

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If a dish calls for nutritional yeast, chances are that I’m making it. Even though I’m not a vegetarian, I can’t get enough of the umami-rich hit that nutritional yeast provides, and there’s plenty of it in this easy noodle bowl. Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe, I’ve reduced the amount of coconut flakes and upped the volume of sauce for an even more umami-rich dish.

Soba noodles with crispy kale

Ingredients:

1 bunch curly kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons plus 1/3 cup olive oil
12 ounces dried soba noodles
3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 lime

1. Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 375F degrees. Toss kale, coconut, nutritional yeast, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl to coat. Divide mixture evenly between 2 rimmed baking sheets and roast, tossing and rotating baking sheets halfway through, until kale is crisp and coconut is golden brown, 15–20 minutes.

2. While kale is roasting, cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Place noodles in a large bowl.

3. Combine tahini, soy sauce, honey, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and remaining 1/3 cup olive oil in a small bowl. Finely grate zest from lime into bowl; halve lime and squeeze in juice. Whisk dressing until smooth, then pour about half of it over noodles; toss to coat.

4. Add half of kale mixture to noodles and toss to coat. Drizzle in remaining dressing, tossing until noodles are creamy. Pile remaining kale on top.

Hot and Sour Silken Tofu

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This Sichuan-style dish is inspired by a Fuchsia Dunlop recipe that comes together in a matter of minutes. The silky-soft tofu and salty, crunchy dry-roasted edamame pair addictively well together. Eat this on its own or with rice. Either way it’s perfect on a chilly day.

Hot and sour silken tofu

Ingredients:

Salt
11 ounces silken tofu
1 teaspoon Chinkiang vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons chicken stock
2 teaspoons chili oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons sliced green onions
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped Sichuan preserved vegetable or kimchi
1/2 cup dry-roasted edamame

1. Bring a saucepan filled with five inches of lightly salted water to a boil. Gently add the tofu and simmer gently until warmed through, about five minutes. Set aside.

2. In a serving bowl, mix together the vinegar, soy sauce, chicken stock, chili oil, sesame oil, 1 tablespoon green onions, garlic, and 1 tablespoon preserved vegetable.

3. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tofu to a serving bowl and break it up into large chunks. Scatter with the remaining preserved vegetable, green onions, edamame, and serve.

Lemongrass Chicken with Rice Noodles

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I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t love bun, or Vietnamese rice noodle bowls. And no two bun are the same: the combinations are endless, but one thing remains the same: a good bun is a riot of textures and flavors: crunchy and chewy and salty and sweet and tart all at once.

This lemongrass-heavy version with grilled chicken is my favorite way to make bun at home. Feel free to adjust the ingredients to your liking.

Lemongrass chicken with rice noodles

Ingredients:

For the nuoc cham:

1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce, plus more to taste

For the marinade:

1/4 cup roughly chopped lemongrass
3 tablespoons roughly chopped shallot
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon pepper


1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 (8-ounce) package uncooked thin rice stick noodles
4 cups lettuce, thinly sliced
1 Persian cucumber, julienned
1/2 cup torn fresh mint
1/2 cup torn fresh Thai or other basil
Vegetable oil, for grilling

2/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts or cashews, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup crispy fried shallots

1. Make the nuoc cham: Stir together water, lime juice, and sugar in a small bowl until sugar dissolves. Add additional lime juice to taste; dilute with water if flavors are too strong. Stir in fish sauce; add additional fish sauce to taste.

2. Marinade the chicken: Place all marinade ingredients in a food processor; pulse until mixture is pureed. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Add chicken to marinade in bowl, mixing to coat. Cover, refrigerate, and marinade chicken for 2 to 6 hours.

3. When ready to cook, boil noodles in a pot of water until chewy-tender (cook time will depend on brand). Drain and rinse under cold water; drain again. Divide lettuce and cucumber among 4 large serving bowls. Sprinkle bowls evenly with mint and basil. Top evenly with noodles.

4. Heat a grill pan over medium-high. Lightly brush chicken with oil. Place chicken on hot grill pan; cook, turning occasionally, until chicken is slightly charred and cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board, let cool for 2 minutes, and slice into bite-sized pieces.

5. Divide chicken among bowls. Top bowls evenly with peanuts and fried shallots. Serve with nuoc cham as an accompaniment.

Cumin Beef

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The first time I had cumin beef was decades ago at an Islamic Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. The silk road influences were obvious: cumin is often used in Ughyur cuisine in China’s Xingjiang Province, in tandem with loads of garlic and chiles. I was hooked.

This fragrant dish is a cinch to make and takes me right back to that first time I tasted Muslim Chinese cuisine. Serve this with rice for an easy weeknight meal.

Cumin beef

Ingredients:

1 pound trimmed sirloin steak
2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon potato flour
1 green or red bell pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
3 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 fresh red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes, to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1. Cut the beef into thin slices. In a medium bowl, stir the marinade ingredients with 1 tablespoon water and add the beef, mixing to coat. Cut the peppers into 1-inch strips, then cut diagonally into diamond-shaped slices.

2. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a wok over high heat. Add the beef and stir-fry until just cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove beef from the wok and set aside.

3. Return the wok to the heat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the garlic and chili pepper, and stir-fry until hot and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Return the beef to the wok and add the cumin and dried chiles, continuing to stir-fry until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Just before removing from the heat, add the green onions and stir. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil, and serve.

Seaweed and Ground Turkey Stir-Fry

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This is one of those #uglydelicious dishes that you make up at the spur of the moment: check out the freezer, open the cupboard, and make something out of nothing. Except that this nothing is actually quite delicious — and healthy to boot. Ground turkey and seaweed are an unlikely pairing, but they come together in moments in a garlicy, lime and fish sauce-flecked seasoning. This is delicious on its own or with rice.

Seaweed and ground turkey stir-fry

Ingredients:

1 or 2 ounces dried mixed seaweed (I used a mixture of wakame, kelp, and white fungus), soaked in water for 10 minutes
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon thinly sliced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 pound ground turkey
2 Thai dried red chiles
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon torn cilantro leaves

1. Drain the soaked seaweed, rinse, and drain again. Cut the seaweed into roughly 1-inch size pieces and set aside in a serving bowl.

2. Place a wok over high heat. Once heated, add the oil, shallots, and garlic until aromatic, about 10 seconds. Add the turkey and chiles. Stir-fry, breaking up meat, until turkey is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the lime juice and remove from heat. Add the fish sauce, stir, and add the mixture to the seaweed. Add the cilantro and mix. Serve warm or at room temperature.