I went to boarding school as a kid and a boarding school run by Franciscans at that. Saint Francis of Assisi, whose code these folks live by, was an Italian mendicant saint who lived frugally and helped mankind. Unfortunately for us poor students, this philosophy, made its way to the food that was served in our dining hall as well. It really was pretty bad. Tasteless and sometimes undercooked, it needed all the help it could get from condiments that we could throw at it (think pickles and jams) to make it somewhat palatable. NOTE: I am told by reliable sources that went to boarding schools in other parts of the world that food is uniformly bad at such places and that Franciscan boarding schools cannot claim exclusivity for providing such privilege.
Well, once a week, we would get a break from the routine and we could leave the school to go to local market to buy school supplies, books, whatever else we needed and yes, to eat. Now, you have to understand that this school was in Lucknow, one of the major foodie centers in India (the place where the Dum Pukht style of cooking was invented), so the options available to us were amazing. There were kababs and biryani, chaat and dosa, and of course, Indian Chinese. One of my fondest memories is eating Chow Mein, as the noodle dish was called. Chicken Chow Mein cost five rupees at that time (about $0.10) so it was well within the reach of our pocket money. And it was good.
So the other day, with some leftover tofu, a zucchini, some broccoli and a carrot, I paid homage to the food of my childhood and made this dish. And it was good.
The recipe is approximate since I was using whatever I could lay my hands on. Enjoy.
INGREDIENTS (for one)
1 tsp cooking oil
1/4 onion – sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
4 oz hard tofu cut into small half inch cubes
1 yellow zucchini – diced into small half inch pieces
1/4 broccoli head – cut into small bite sized pieces
1 medium carrot – peeled and diced into small half inch pieces
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
1 tsp of Rooster sauce – because everything is better with it
Five spice powder
1 “square” of egg noodles -cooked according to instructions (you would use the same amount of noodles as a single serving of Ramen noodles)
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
NOTE: The key to cooking this is what is key to any kind of wok cooking – high heat and frequent stirring. You want the veggies to sear, but remain crunchy.
1. On high heat, heat the oil in a wok.
2. Add the onion and garlic and cook till the onion starts to brown.
3. Add the tofu and the veggies and cook till they sear. Make sure you are moving stuff around otherwise it will burn.
4. Add the vinegar, soy, Hoisin and Rooster sauce. Add mix it up. TIP: The sauces should be added last and not left in the cooking for very long. Prolonged cooking with the sauces will make the veggies soft.
5. Add a bit of the pepper, five spice powder and salt to taste.
6. Add the noodles and peanuts and mix well. Cook till they are heated through.
7. Serve immediately.