Dates cooked: April 23, 2022; May 6, 2022
I am lucky! I have a wide group of friends and they are all – without exception – wonderful, virtual people. They care for others and always do the right thing. But, I suspect they may sometimes be tempted to do not nice things – maybe flip someone off in traffic, or worse. If and when that happens they probably stop and do the nice thing instead because they are sure tofu, and especially tofu with ramen, is what is served for three meals a day in hell. Could it be that if they tried this dish they might stray from the straight and narrow lives? I suspect not; I certainly hope not.
Well, I like tofu and not just because I’m trying to get used to my meals throughout eternity after I die. I’ve made this dish twice so far – once for company even – and plan to make it again this coming weekend. Are you ready to be tempted? Let’s get into it.
This is one of the few tofu recipes I’ve made that doesn’t focus on crisping the tofu. This recipe is successful for the contrast of crispy noodles and creamy tofu and both sweet and savory sauces.
We start with a block of extra firm tofu; this block has been drained and pressed somewhat dry in a tofu press.
But yeah, I get it; it does not look at all appetizing. Let’s see if it looks better sliced into ¼-inch slabs.
Okay, not much better – yet. But tofu is very fun to slice; it is soooo pliable. That’s good for the cook but not the diner.
While the tofu is being pressed, I gathered the rest of the ingredients.
That greenery is baby bok choy which is labelled in the 99 Ranch Market Asian store as Bok Choy Mui. There was standard bok choy and also bok choy sum. I asked the cashier what “mui” means and she translated it to “baby brother”. So it’s the smallest bok choy.
We want the ramen to be crispy, but not out of the package crispy, so we have to soften it first. I discarded the flavor packets, placed the 3 blocks of ramen in a large glass bowl (to aid in heat retention) and covered in boiling water for 5 minutes. I placed a small plate on top to keep it submerged.
When the time is up it goes in the strainer. In my second cook I discovered that letting it drain for 10 or 15 minutes really allowed it to get crispy when baking.
Another key to this dish’s delight is the myriad of flavors. We have two sauces, once for the noodles and one for the tofu. Let’s make them. The ramen sauce is made of soy sauce, a neutral tasting oil – I’ve been using grapeseed oil, do not use olive oil – and toasted sesame oil.
The ramen sauce/glaze is made with hoisin sauce, maple syrup, more of that sesame oil, and pressed or minced garlic.
I’ll include a link to the recipe down below; when you make the sauce, double the portions. Most of the recipe comments are practically shouting “MAKE MORE SAUCE”. Also, Lee Kum See is a great brand of hoisin (and oyster) sauce.
Lots of sheet pan recipes say “put the ingredients on the sheet pan and toss with oil”. That almost never works for me. I found it much better on my second try to toss the ramen and sauce together in a large bowl. I used the same bowl the ramen was steamed in – so no extra dishes to clean. Then spread the ramen evenly on the sheet pan. No need to be fussy, we’ll be pushing things around in a bit.
The recipe calls for dipping the tofu slices in the hoisin sauce; but wow, will that go through the sauce quickly. I tried a couple of different techniques and found that using a small teaspoon – not a measuring teaspoon, but a small spoon you’d used to stir your coffee – to gently spread the thick glaze on both sides works the best. Push the ramen noodles aside to allow you to put the tofu directly on the sheet pan. It will get just a bit crispy and cooked through that way. At this point it should look something like this.
Put the sheet pan on the bottom rack of a preheated 450° oven for 15 minutes. After checking on it, I added three more minutes to help the tofu get crispier.
While the ramen and tofu are in the oven, we turn our attention to the bok choy. If you can find the baby bok choy you only need to cut off the base to allow the individual leaves to separate. If you are using regular bok choy, I suggest cutting off a large part of the white stalks, keeping the tender green parts.
I then used that same big glass bowl to toss the bok choy in some of the grape seed oil and kosher salt.
When the tofu and ramen are almost ready, remove the sheet pan from the oven and place the bok choy leaves on top.
It goes in the oven on the top rack – so the bok choy gets the most heat – for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle any remaining hoisin sauce on top. Dinner is ready.
Crispy ramen with glazed tofu and bok choy ready to serve.
Dinner is served.
Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars). Four stars means it is company worthy. We made it for Linda and Jonah last weekend and they loved it. Carla has talked with Linda a couple of times since then; Carla reports that Linda and Jonah don’t seem to have turned to the side of evil knowing that an eternity of tofu and ramen wouldn’t be the worst thing for eternity. If that changes, and it can be blamed on the tofu; I’ll reduce the rating to 3 stars; I mean, I’ll still eat it.
You can find the NY Times recipe here. You may need to create an account but I think you don’t have to have a paid subscription to view just one or two recipes. I have a copy of my modified version here; it has some slight clarity of ingredients, adjustments for preparation, and dispensing with the cilantro in the original because Carla has the gene that makes cilantro taste like soap. Ugh.