Vegetable Noodles with Wood Ears
Wood ears are mild in flavour but have a firm, velvety texture. They are widely used in Chinese cooking, which places great importance on texture. This recipe is loosely based on the classic vegetarian dish lo hon jai, or Buddha’s Delight. Vegetables, tofu, mushrooms and noodles are lightly braised in soy sauce, miso and sesame oil, making for a deliciously subtle mixture of flavours and textures. Serve as a light meal or as part of a range of Chinese dishes.
- 100g fresh wood ears, or 15g dried
- 50g rice noodles
- 200g (about half a block) firm tofu, drained
- 2 carrots
- 1 head Chinese leaf
- 2cm ginger, peeled and shredded
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 small bunch three-cornered leek (or few flowered garlic, or 4 spring onions)
- 2 tablespoons miso paste
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 200g mangetout
- Sea salt, to taste
- If you’re using fresh wood ears, clean them carefully using a brush. Cut away any hard stems, and slice into 5cm pieces. If you’re using dried wood ears, put them in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to stand for 30 minutes until they expand and turn completely soft. Drain well, and press lightly between sheets of kitchen towel to blot any excess moisture. Cut away any hard stems, and slice into 5cm pieces.
- Soak the rice noodles in hot water until until they become soft, as per the instructions on the packet. Rinse well in cold water, drain and set aside.
- Peel the carrots and cut into diagonal coins about 0.5cm thick. Working from the leafy tip downwards, cut the Chinese leaf crosswise into 2cm slices. Separate the discs of leaves and roughly divide the leafier parts from the thicker stems. Cut the three-cornered leek (or few-flowered garlic or spring onion) into fine slices. (If using spring onion, keep the white parts and green parts separate).
- Cut the tofu into 1cm chunks and sit the pieces on a sheet of kitchen paper to blot them. Set a wok or large frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil and when it is hot, add the tofu pieces. Keep the heat high and stir them around from time to time, allowing them brown a little on each side. When they are evenly browned, lift them from the pan with a slotted spoon and set them on a plate.
- Reduce the heat under the wok to medium. Add the ginger and half the three-cornered leek (or the white part of the spring onions) and stir-fry until fragrant. Stir in the carrots and the stems parts of the Chinese leaf. Mix the miso paste with 150ml warm water, then pour into the pan and bring to a boil.
- Add the leafy parts of the Chinese leaf, the wood ears, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Turn the heat down, cover the pan, and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the rice noodles, mangetout and tofu, and simmer for 5 minutes more. The rice noodles will soak up some of the liquid, so you may need to add some hot water if you want more sauce. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary. Scatter with the remaining three-cornered leeks (or the green part of the spring onions) and serve.
Recipe and photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK