ASIAN INSPIRED TOFU-VEGGIE BOWL
Weeknight meals are a thing. I do not have time to cook elaborate meals every week night. There are some weekdays that I just need to take it easy and have a healthy meal ready quickly so that my family can get a nutritious meal, without spending money or getting food from out, where you never know what they are putting in it.
My family LOVES bowls. Bowl meals are an understatement. They will make any meal a bowl meal. What I mean is similar to the Chipotle Bowls. The Asian inspired Tofu-Veggie Bowl has become a huge hit in our home for a couple of years. And I make it almost every week. I know it may be monotonous to have it every week but hey, they get a veggie loaded, protein loaded and well balanced vegan meal! What more can a mama ask for?!
The tofu requires a bit of advance prep in the sense that you need to remove the excess water from it. But while that is happening, you can finish preparing the sugar snap peas and cucumbers, as well as the jasmine rice, and keep everything ready. Thus when the tofu is ready, cooking the tofu takes about 15 minutes.
I always make extra since my kids love the bowls the next day as well for lunch(in this pandemic, since they have been home!). My daughter will even eat it for breakfast if there was extra extras!
These bowls are packed with vegetables, carbohydrates, protein and it is a vegan meal. It is not gluten-free because I am adding soya sauce, which has gluten in it.
WHAT IS GOCHUJANG?
My love for gochujang goes way back – to when I first went back to India from the United States. I was studying at USC, and went to India to surprise my family and friends, after 9 months of being here. I was home sick. Korean Air was the quickest flight to India, a mere 20 hours going including the stopover at Seoul, and a mere 22 hours coming back. The best flight there was for me atleast!
The food ofcourse was not good, as being a vegetarian, I asked for a veg meal and I got bland food. I did not ask for the Indian Veg Meal. That was my mistake. Anyways. I wanted the food to be spicy so I asked for a spicy sauce. They gave me these little cute toothpaste-like tubes that had a red paste in it. I put that on my bland food, and it really changed the taste drastically! Gosh what a relief! Then I found out this was gochujang! A new discovery!
What is Gochujang? Gochujang is a red paste that is fermented. It is spicy, slightly sweet, savory and really changes up the taste of any dish! It is made from gochu-garu(which is korean red chilli flakes), fermented soya powder, glutinous rice, barley malt powder, and salt. You can find it at your local grocery stores too now easily. It was not available in 2001 when I graduated from USC. I would rely on collecting those little tubes from my trips to India on Korean Air.
Here is what the box now looks like, and I get mine from the local grocery store. You can ofcourse get it from speciality Asian stores as well.
HOW TO MAKE THE TOFU CRISPY AND DELICIOUS!
Ingredients to make the tofu crispy:
- Corn starch : It gives the tofu its signature crispy crust when pan fried on the stove.
- Salt and Pepper : Always salt and pepper the tofu. Traditionally tofu is bland, but properly seasoning it is the key.
- Always get extra firm tofu, if you want to cook tofu that stays in its shape.
- You want to first get all the water content out of the tofu. For that you wrap the tofu in a kitchen towel and place something heavy on the top, so that all the excess water is squeezed out of it.
- Then pan fry it on medium heat, and make sure to cook each side for about 2 minutes until the side is brown. Turn each tofu piece and brown the remaining sides. It takes a bit of patience for this process, but I promise you, the tofu turns out SO GOOD.
TO PREPARE THE SAUCE:
Ingredients to prepare the sauce:
- Soya sauce: Gives it a nice umami flavor and color to the tofu
- Rice vinegar: It adds a bit of tang to the sauce
- Sesame oil: It gives a nice earthy and nutty flavor to the sauce
- Gochujang paste: I am obsessed with it, and I love the color, and flavor that it imparts to the sauce. It has that slightly spicy, sweet flavor that I love
- Brown sugar: I love a bit of sweetness to the sauce
- Garlic and Ginger: I freshly grate the garlic and ginger for the best taste. Ginger/Garlic are a staple in Indian cooking so I can and will not ever run out of these two ingredients!
These ingredients are staples in my pantry and I always have them.
The same sauce is used to make the sugar snap peas.
ASSEMBLY OF THE BOWL:
The Bowl comes together very easily.
- Always use jasmine rice. It is short grain rice, and has that stickiness to it, which is perfect for asian bowls.
- Sugar Snap Peas
- Edamame : I get mine from Trader Joe’s
- Corn : I have used canned corn here but you can boil your own corn if in season
- Steamed Broccoli : I will sometimes steam broccoli, add lemon zest, juice, salt and pepper on the top and serve it in the bowl.
- Garnish or spring onions and sesame seeds is NOT OPTIONAL!
- Sriracha drizzle always for the spice lovers!
If you do make these bowls, please do not forget to tag #thejamlab on Instagram and/or leave a comment in this blog post!
Hope all is well!