On my morning run today I found myself passing along my one of my favorite blocks in Madison, Williamson Street aka “Willy Street” as you’re probably more familiar with. Willy St. is full of home owned stores & restaurants, chic coffee shops, and the Willy Street Co-op, a food cooperative with shared ownership by the Madison community. A few blocks in and a starting to break a sweat, I strode past one of my favorite spots in town – Ha Long Bay, a Vietnamese & Thai Bistro. One of the few Asian cuisine establishments in Madison that I’ve returned to, Ha Long Bay offers an eclectic menu of curries, soups and rice & noodle dishes, and that only covers pages 3/8 of the menu. As I passed by the restaurant my mouth began to water as I recalled the tasty yellow tofu curry I recently had there and decided I was going to cook up a Ha Long Bay inspired dish of my own.
As a foodie, my palate has continued to grow over the years and has taken me on some wild encounters, from the traditional Scottish Haggis to a platter of South African game meats which were both chewy and delicious. However, I always seem to revisit Asian culinary options – the flavors so rich and intense, and generally healthy as well. The meal I’ve created and shared with you is perfect for those watching their figure but also packs in loads of nutrients and is high in protein while still preserving a full-bodied flavor.
Baby Bok Choy w/ Tofu & Serrano Chilis
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
1 head baby bok choy
1 package extra firm tofu
2 tbsp peanut sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small Serrano chili
2 handfuls roasted peanuts
A trick I learned from a friend of mine about cooking tofu is to always drain and soak up as much water content as possible before taking to the stove. Firm tofu fries in the pan nicely, and after a partial dehydration it won’t crumble into bits as you continue to cook it. The trick is to remove your tofu from the package, drain off the excess water and slice into bite size pieces. Then place a piece of paper towel onto a plate and lay the cubed tofu slices on the towel and cover the top of the tofu with another sheet of towel as to extract any excess moisture from the soy. Who needs a degree in chemistry to complete a dehydration? Let this sit for 10 minutes while prepping the remainder of the ingredients. Next wash your baby bok choy thoroughly as they tend to collect dirt and once washed, rip off the layers into individual stalks. You can either leave them long or cut them into smaller bite size pieces. Then wash and chop the Serrano chili pepper, being careful to avoid contact of the eyes and face (wash your hands thoroughly after preparing the chili). Throw out the stem and any excess seeds depending on your spice tolerance. If you’re worried about spice, an alternative would be a jalapeño which measures in on the Scoville Heat Unit scale at ~3,500-8,000 SHU vs. a Serrano chili at ~10,000-23,000 SHU. Prepare the scallions simply by washing and then dicing the greens and the white onion base into small bits, putting aside some of the greens for garnish.
Now we’re ready to get cooking. Heat up 1 tbsp of olive oil in your skillet and keep the heat on medium high. Once the oil is noticeably hot add in your scallions, Serrano chili and bok choy. Shortly after, add in the tofu and stir ensuring everything is lightly coated with oil. If necessary add a drop or two more to make sure nothing sticks to the pan and is stirred evenly. Next add in the soy sauce and continue to stir. A minute later douse with peanut sauce, this is where the real flavor comes in so don’t be shy (and if you are allergic to peanuts there’s some tasty alternatives that use creamy cashew butters instead, links provided below). Turn the heat down to medium, add in the peanuts, and continue to mix the lot for another 5 minutes until the tofu has reached a golden brown color and the veggies are tender. Remove from heat, plate immediately and sprinkle the remaining scallion greens on top for garnish. Bon Appétit!
Cashew butter sauce for peanut allergies
Three Restaurant Recommendations
1) Ha-Long Bay – Vietnamese & Thai Bistro
2) The Weary Traveler Freehouse
3) DLUX – Burger Bistro