Welcome to On Board in 20, a recipe series where we share wholesome, 20-minute meals that are shared family style. The recipes always contain whole food ingredients and are intended to be brought to the table for family members to build and construct their individual plates as their senses guide them. Along the way, we bring you tips and tricks for speeding up prep and clean up for those busy weeknight meal times. This month’s 20 minute recipe is for General Tso’s Crispy Tofu with Snap Peas and Rice Noodles.
I once wrote that tofu and I have an on again/off again relationship. After tasting this dish, I’m happy to say I’m absolutely ready to make a long-term commitment. This month’s On Board in 20 meal is General Tso’s Crispy Tofu with Snap Peas and Rice Noodles. It’s a game changer for me when it comes to tofu, and the fact that I can make it part of a 20-minute weeknight dinner is just an added bonus.
The big win with this meal was finding pressed tofu. I’ve worked with extra firm but I find it still is best with at least a 15 to 30 minute press. Costco carries organic pressed tofu and it really speeds up the process. I think it would still work with extra firm tofu, but you may want to add the press step into it.
Another way to speed up this recipe, and my other 20-minute dinners, is to get comfortable not measuring. Particularly when creating savoury sauces, the best thing is to just taste along the way. Unless you drop the cap and an entire bottle of soy sauce goes in the sauce, almost any over-pour can be corrected. For this General Tso’s Crispy Tofu, try the ‘glug glug’ approach when you add the oil, vinegar and maple syrup, and just use a spoon to scoop out the chilli sauce. Once you do it a few times, you get used to the ratio of salt to sweet and how much oil you need to coat or sauté. It also really speeds up dinner prep and reduces the amount of measuring dishes to deal with at the end of the meal.
One final note for this 20-minute meal is that broccoli makes a great greens substitute, and the noodles could easily be swapped out for a warm sticky rice. I’m not sure who we need to thank at the Qing dynasty for bringing us this sweet, mild heat of a glossy sauce, but one bite of this General Tso’s Crispy Tofu with Snap Peas and Rice Noodles and you’ll be sending a note of gratitude.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 396g package of rice wide rice noodles
- 2 cups fresh snap peas
- 2 cups fresh green beans
- 700g pressed tofu
- 2 cloves of garlic, grated
- 1 1" 'thumb' of fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon garlic chili sauce
- 4 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (sub with rice or white vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 4 tablespoons water
- 3 scallions
- Optional garnish: sesame seeds, lime and fresh Thai basil
- Start a kettle with 2 litres of water. Heat a cast iron pan and a non stick pan over medium/high heat. Add the vegetable oil to the cast iron and the sesame oil to the non stick. Bring out a large metal bowl that a dinner plate would fit over, or a large pot with tight fitting lid. Place a small pot with lid on stove (no need to preheat)
- Place the dry rice noodles in the large metal bowl. Once the kettle boils, pour all but about ½ cup of water over the noodles. Break the noodles apart gently with a fork and then place the dinner plate over and leave until just before plating.
- Pour the remaining half cup of hot water into the smallest pot and add the green beans, then snap peas and put a lid on it. Turn the heat to medium/low and check in five minutes for doneness.
- Cut the tofu into equal pieces about 2x2x1 inch (refer to pictures for size). When the oil in the cast iron pot is near smoking hot, place the tofu in the hot pan and arrange so no pieces are touching. Leave undisturbed for five minutes. The idea is to get a nice crust on the tofu. Flip the pieces when the crust resembles French toast. Cook for an additional 3 minutes or so and then add the pieces to the sauce.
- Grate the garlic and ginger directly over sesame oil pan. Add soy sauce, chili sauce, vinegar, maple syrup, and cornstarch and water mixture. Stir and reduce heat to a low/medium. Cut the scallions into three equal pieces and then roughly into thin strips. Add scallions to sauce and stir to wilt.
- To assemble: drain the rice noodles and place directly on the board. (You may want to toss them in a small amount of oil to keep them from sticking.) Layer the vegetables on top of the noodles, followed by the tofu and any extra sauce. Garnish with lime, Thai basil and/or sesame seeds.
More 20 Minute Meal Ideas?
- BBQ Chicken Thighs with New Potato Salad
- Thai Nachos with Crispy Pork
- Steak Quesadillas with Mango Avocado Salad
- Pork Tenderloin Sliders and Blue Cheese Slaw
- Lamb Kofta with Argula Gremolata
Lisa Bolton is the creator, writer and photographer behind Food Well Said, her blog about bringing thoughtfully prepared, whole food recipes. She lives in the Lower Mainland of BC and you can reach her on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.