Seared Tofu Steak with Miso Ginger Soba Noodles
(Gluten Free, Vegetarian, Vegan)
It’s not that I don’t commonly use tofu in my personal diet, but it’s not often that I write about tofu as the star ingredient in a dish. In this one however, tofu shines bright and the cooking technique achieves something special in texture and flavor.
This is one of those quick and bright weekday meals that you can whip up in no time using pretty much whatever you like or have on hand using a few pantry staples and any variety of fresh vegetables.
Tofu is a product of soybean curd and is a popular component of vegetarian and vegan diets because it’s high in protein. Tofu also contains zero cholesterol and is a good additive to an anti-inflammatory diet.
Whenever I use tofu in a dish, the first thing I do before starting anything else is to dry it out. I will first cut the tofu into the shapes I want to serve then arrange in a single layers in a casserole on top of a few layers of kitchen towels. I then top with more towels and top that with a small cutting board that press down with some heavy cans or whatever heavy kitchen item will fit on top.
Tofu is kind of like a sponge and since it’s packed in water, it absorbs a lot of liquid. By pressing the water out of the tofu prior to cooking, it will take on the flavors of whatever you’re using. These flavors will replace the liquid in the tofu. You can press it as long as you like and even change out the towels halfway through to absorb even more liquid.
One of my favorite ingredients miso. Miso comes in many varieties and creates that 5th flavor profile of umami that Japanese food embodies. You can find miso in the Asian section of any Western grocery store.
Miso is fermented soybean. Fermented probiotic foods like miso, kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir promote proper digestion and gut health. Optimal gut health is a building block for the overall health of your body and these fermented foods will help regulate the good bacteria in your gut crucial to well being.
In this recipe I’m using white miso, also known as shiro. White miso is aged only for a short period of time, generally less than 8 weeks. This is unlike red miso which can be aged up to 3 years.
Another Japanese ingredient I always have on hand are buckwheat noodles. Although it sounds like a grain, 100 percent buckwheat noodles are actually produced with a gluten free, grain-like seed. Soba noodles are traditionally either eaten cold with a dipping sauce or hot in some type of soup.
It’s important to note that not all soba noodles and products labeled as soba are totally gluten or grain free. You need to check the ingredients to be sure they’re marked as 100 percent soba as many products on the market will be partly comprised of wheat flour at a lower concentration. This is critically important to check if you’re gluten sensitive or suffer celiac disease.
The key to this dish as I mentioned is the cooking technique for the tofu. The combination of vegetables is at your discretion or based on what you like or have on hand. Other vegetables that could be used are beans, snap peas, asparagus, diakon, zucchini, etc.. Use this recipe as a starting point but feel free to be creative.
- 1 block firm tofu (cut into 4 steaks and dried as mentioned above)
- 4-6 ounces 100 percent soba noodles
- 2-3 Tbsp vegetable oil plus 1 Tbsp divided
- 1/2 cup white miso
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp grated garlic
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp liquid amino or coconut amino
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1-2 medium carrots (peeled, cut into rings)
- 1-2 cups broccoli (cut into florets)
- 1 1/2 cups purple cabbage (shredded)
- 2 green onion (green parts, sliced thinly)
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds for garnish
Dry the tofu as previously written.
The soba noodles should be served cold with the other ingredients on top.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. There is no need to salt the water. Cook the noodles according to the package directions or until just tender. Strain the noodles and rinse with cold water thoroughly.
While the noodles are cooking, mix the 2-3 Tbsp oil with the miso, ginger, garlic, vinegar, aminos, sesame oil and honey.
Once your noodles are rinsed, take about 4 or 5 Tbsp of the miso mixture and mix with the noodles using your hands. Set the noodles aside to plate later.
Use a cast iron and set to medium high heat.
Add the remaining Tbsp vegetable oil and when hot, gently set the 4 tofu steaks into the pan. Do not touch the tofu once you drop them. You want to cook them undisturbed until you start to notice some color on the corners and sides. Only when they easily lift from the pan, you can flip them over and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. There is no exact time for this process. You need to trust yourself not to touch them like if you were searing fish. If you try to turn them too early, they will break apart and you won’t obtain the beautiful texture and flavor you’re going for.
Once the steaks are nicely browned on both sides, add a few tablespoons of the miso mixture to glaze the tofu then remove to a plate and keep warm on the back of your stove.
Add the last of your oil, maybe another tablespoon or so. Add the thickers vegetables first like carrots and broccoli and cook for a few minutes or until slightly cooked through but still al dente. Add the purple cabbage and toss for 30 seconds or so. Add the remaining miso mixture and combine well.
To plate, mound half of the noodles in a shallow bowl. Add half the vegetables and then top with 2 pieces of tofu per plate. Garnish with your sliced green onions and sesame seeds.