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Szechuan-style noodles

This recipe for Szechuan-style noodles is the latest in a monthly series of recipes I have created in partnership with Suma. Each of these recipes is inspired by products from Suma’s extensive range of organic and ethically sourced products, and the recipes appear both here on my blog and on the Suma website.

Ingredients

  1. 150 g shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  2. 250 g pak choi, shredded
  3. 40 unsalted peanuts, finely chopped
  4. 20 ml soy sauce
  5. 20 ml Chinkiang (Chinese Black Rice) vinegar
  6. ½ tsp Chinese five spice powder
  7. 1 tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil
  8. 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  9. 350 g udon noodles

  10. for the ground tofu

  11. 1 block firm tofu, drained
  12. 2 tbsp sesame oil
  13. 1 tbsp soy sauce
  14. 1 tbsp chilli oil

  15. for the sauce

  16. 20 Szechuan peppercorns
  17. 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  18. 30 g sesame paste or tahini
  19. 30 ml soy sauce
  20. 10 ml maple syrup
  21. 20 ml chilli oil

  22. to serve

  23. 1 spring onion, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  24. 1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Method:

  1. Wrap the block of drained tofu in kitchen roll, then place between two chopping boards and place something weighty on top, such as a cookbook, to help squeeze out the excess moisture. Leave for 20 minutes, then unwrap the tofu from the kitchen paper. Break the tofu block into small pieces and put in a bowl. Use a forth to break down the pieces further, until the tofu looks a like pale mince. Place a wok over a high heat and add the sesame oil. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the ground tofu and stir-fry continually to ensure even cooking. After five minutes or so, the ground tofu should have started to take on a golden colour and to crisp around the edges. Stir in the the chili oil, followed by the soy sauce. Stir-fry for a further two minutes, then remove the wok from the heat and scrape the minced tofu into a bowl. Set to one side.
  2. Now make the sauce. Clean the wok and place over a medium heat. Add the Szechuan peppercorns, toast for a minute, then remove from the heat and tip into a pestle and mortar and crush to a powder. Place the ground Szechuan pepper with the garlic, tahini, soy sauce, maple syrup, chilli oil in a food processor and blend into a smooth paste. Set to one side. Clean the wok again.
  3. Cook the noodles according to the instructions. When they are cooked, use 2-3 tablespoon of the cooking liquid to whisk into the sauce to make it thinner, the drain the noodles, place in a large bowl and stir in the thinned sauce.
  4. While the noodles are cooking, place the cleaned wok over a high heat and add the groundnut and toasted sesame oils. As soon the the oil begins to shimmer, add the shiitake. Stir-fry for 3 minutes, then add the pak choi and continue to stir-fry for a further 3 minutes. Stir in the ground tofu, the peanuts and five spice powder. After a minute pour in the soy sauce and Chinkiang vinegar. Continue to stir-fry for another 1-2 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated.
  5. To serve, divide the noodles and sauce between bowls. Place some of the tofu, shiitake and pak choi mixture on top, then scatter with the chopped spring onion and coriander.
Recipe & photo from Steve Dent AKA The Circus Gardener’s Kitchen

I grow pak choi every year, and over time have learned that it’s best to plant this hardy vegetable late on in the growing season, around mid July. This helps avoid the two main problems I’ve experienced with it in the past, namely a tendency to bolt and a susceptibility to flea beetle damage.

I’m using pak choi in this recipe, inspired by a Szechuan classic called dan dan noodles, so called because it originated in the Szechuan province of Dan Dan Mian. Despite a relatively short cooking time, the end result is a deliciously complex, rich and spicy noodle dish.

Chinkiang vinegar is available from Asian stores, as is sesame paste, although tahini makes a perfect substitute.