Sweet Ginger Chili Stir Fried Ramen Bowl and Crispy Tofu

Something feels so wrong about posting a recipe with ramen noodles...

But it was so so yummy.

 Growing up, I never really liked ramen noodles, especially the broth seasoning that comes with it. On the rare occasions I did eat it, I would usually just cook the noodles and then toss them with parmesan & butter or oil.

In about mid October, my family and I were in Fayetteville for my Uncle's surprise birthday party, and we all went to this Hawaiian restaurant one night. Hearing about a few of the menu items, my dad joked the whole car ride to the restaurant about how "excited" he was to eat spam & ramen noodles. I wasn't necessarily thrilled to be going there either, but I also had never eaten "Hawaiian" inspired food.
It was still fun to experience it, even if they served a 3 dollar bowl of ramen noodles.
Needless to say, I actually ended up getting the ramen noodles.

And boy, am I glad I did. It was by far the most delicious bowl of any noodles I'd ever had.
Okay, so maybe not the best... I might have just had really low expectations. But it was still delicious.
Y'all know I'm a sucker for sweet/savory dishes, and the broth had a really subtle sweet & sour finish to it.
The whole table, including my dad, was surprised at how delicious a bowl of (3 dollar) ramen could be.
Oh wait, it was actually $4. I added cabbage into it for a dollar- I bet that's what did the trick.

Anyways, the sweetness from the broth inspired this dish. I was pretty skeptical about the whole tofu idea, considering I've tried to cook it several times, and every time it came out mushy and tasted like cardboard. The only success I've had with tofu was my (dairy free) Coconut Chocolate Ice Cream I made a while back with silken tofu.

This actually worked out really well though! My original idea was to marinate it in miso, and then wrap it in nori and fry it, but with the sweet chili sauce, I thought it would be way too much. I ended up marinating the tofu for half an hour in my favorite salsa, to really soak up the flavors in hope that it wouldn't taste like cardboard.  I still went for the nori idea, but I thought wrapping it in rice paper rolls would be a much less scary alternative.
For those adventurous foodies out there, I really like the nori wrapped version too.
It was a close call, but the rice paper wrapped ones turned out just a hair better.

Let's talk about the sauce. Lately, I've been loving the combination of chili, ginger, orange, and garlic. I made a dipping sauce for rice paper rolls I have coming up later that's almost identical to this glaze. I love how the sweet works with the onion and bitter bite of the bok choy.
Instead of using onion and garlic in the base like I normally do with anything, I chopped up the crunchy parts of the bok choy, which is more mild than onion. It also brought out the sweetness in the sauce.

I know it's ramen noodles, but I promise it tastes nothing like the pre-packaged chicken flavored ones.

Sweet Chili Ramen Bowl and Crispy Tofu 
with Soft Boiled Eggs
Serves 4

2 packages of ramen noodles (or 8 oz. of ramen style noodles)
2 large carrot sticks
1 1/2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 head of bok choy- 2-3 cups of leaves, 1/2 cup finely diced crunchy stems
8 oz. package extra firm tofu
4 rice paper wraps/4 nori sheets
Coconut oil

Spice Rub:
1/4 cup white cornmeal 
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. honey powder (or sugar)
1/4 tsp. dried oregano, turmeric, and cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder and ginger powder
2 tsp. dried orange peel (or fresh zest)

Sweet Ginger Chili Garlic Glaze:
2 tbs. Sriracha chili sauce
2 cloves garlic- roughly chopped
2 tsp. finely chopped ginger
1/2 tbs. orange blossom honey
1 tbs. orange juice
1 tbs. rice wine vinegar
2 tbs. soy sauce

Slice the tofu into 1/2 inch thick rectangular pieces. (If using nori- cut rectangles in half to make smaller squares). Pat tofu dry. Allow tofu to marinate in salsa for at least 30 minutes. 
Lightly brush rice paper wraps or nori with water to rehydrate. Take 1 rice paper wrap per long piece of tofu. Wrap around tightly and toss in spice rub to coat all sides of the wrap. For nori sheets cut each in half before wetting, then wrap 1 square in 1/2 nori sheet. Toss and cover completely in spice mix. 
Bring water to a boil and cook ramen noodles until softened. Strain and move to a cloth to absorb all liquids. 
Heat a deep pan with 1/4 cup coconut oil, over medium/high heat. Carefully place the tofu in the oil and fry for 4-5 minutes on each side for the rice paper wraps (3-4 minutes on each for the smaller ones), or until golden brown and crispy. Try not to flip around a lot to avoid sogginess. Move to a paper towel to absorb access oil. Can move to a low broiler to keep the crisp until serving time; watch carefully to not burn.

Mix the sauce ingredients together.
Heat 2 tbs. coconut oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the bok choy stems and carrots with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes or until carrots start to soften. Add mushrooms and toss. Cook for 2 minutes. Add ramen noodles, bok choy leaves, and sauce. Toss together until bok choy has wilted down and sauce thickens slightly. 
Serve with chopped green onions, toasted sesame seeds, soft boiled eggs, and crispy tofu.

Happy Holidays...

                                                                                                                                  -Cecilia A.


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