Plat Du Jour: Bún cho Ambre

Bún is the Vietnamese rendition of rice vermicelli noodles, which are found commonly all over South-East Asia. From my experience (in Vietnamese restaurants 🙂 ), the noodles are usually served hot in soup, but cold in most other dishes, lending it an attractive option on hot summer days.  When Ambre was introduced to her first Bún dish in Atlanta, her appreciation was intense and immediate (a common Ambre-ism).  The inherently vegetarian rice noodles are usually topped with other vegetarian friendly additions, especially tofu, which is a common food in Vietnam and so usually on-hand in Vietnamese restaurants. A recent visit to our local asian grocery store inspired me to attempt making the dish as Ambre commonly orders it at restaurants: cold bún, julienned carrots and cucumber, lime slices, and a peanut sauce. I would have also provided bean sprouts and expected that they would be easily found, but alas they eluded me.

I made the sauce from an authentic recipe (though I did make it minus the animal products), fried up some pieces of extra firm tofu, used the mandoline to julienne the carrots and cucumbers. Ambre thought it was better than anything she had in a restaurant. Go me!

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Plat Du Jour: Pepper Tofu with String Beans and Water Chestnut

Plat Du Jour details the exploration of all things food that accompanies our everyday dinners. I embellish, try and retry, recipes from the internet and the random cookbooks I have lying around. We share the experience and knowledge gains in hopes we can help others better enjoy their own meals or try one of ours.

Tonight: version 2 of Pepper Tofu. The recipe was sourced originally from the beautifully photographed Plenty By Yotam Ottolenghi. Conceptually, a fried tofu flavored with pepper, chili’s, garlic, ginger, onions, soy sauce etc. The picture looked great in the book but my execution was one of my poorest examples of cookery. Eating through its spice was, as Ambre said, like “a marathon”. It also suffered from general sogginess and indistinct flavor.

Version 2 successfully fixes these things, though barely resembles the previous attempt.

What I did, distilled.

Fewer ingredients:

I’ve found that more ingredients usually cloud the simple but excellent flavors stir fry’s should show off. Also makes prep and cleanup a chore. Pepper, Salt, MSG if you have it, maybe a dab of Sriracha, ginger and garlic, are all that’s needed for a very satisfyingly complex flavor.

Add Heat At End:

Until I have more experience cooking with chili’s, I will save our tongues the agony of a dish too spicy. Adding to taste at the end prevents me from ruining the whole meal at the very beginning.

Choosing Vegetables Wisely:

Version 1 featured green peppers and onions, both of which released significant amounts of water to the dish changing it from stir-fry to stew. Choosing vegetables that don’t really improved the texture of the dish.

The Cooking:

It went quite smoothly compared to last time.

Tossed string beans in salt and oil and broiled them to splotchy brown, tossing to brown evenly.

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Heating oil in a non-stick skillet, sauteed the water chestnuts until they started to brown, stirred in 1 tablespoon minced garlic and ginger, and the beans and cooked until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then added tofu cubes.

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Occasionally tossing, cook the tofu until heated through. Add salt, msg, sriracha, and fresh ground pepper to taste. Plate on a fancy square plate on a fancy table cloth and enjoy.

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