Crispy Harissa Tofu with Sesame Noodles (Vegan, Gluten Free)
In order to stave off the chill of Winter I've been going hard on some noodles + hot spices. Especially in the past couple of weeks, what with the doldrums of Winter literally and figuratively soaking me in an ice bath of frozen rain / puddles / ugliness. It's the end of Winter that really gets me down. I give exactly zero shits about cozy sweaters, book nooks and stoking the fire at this point. Just give me a giant bowl of noodles, some hot sauce, and a big pile of greens. In bed. Watching Arrested Development reruns with bae. Until Spring comes, that's where you can find me.
This crispy harissa tofu with sesame noodles started as a weeknight dinner riff and ended up as one of my favorite new dinners. It takes a little over 30 minutes to make, which is totally weeknight accessible for me. It's spicy, crispy, creamy noodle wonderousness.
Crispy Harissa Tofu with Sesame Noodles
Ok so before you guys go look at the recipe and say WTF there are so many ingredients and steps: HOLD UP. Because most of those ingredients are (commonly available) spices. We're making an amazingly flavorful sauce here, people. And the steps are basically: bake tofu, make sauce, toss tofu in sauce and bake again. While the tofu is baking: make noodles, make sauce, toss noodles in sauce. Then you put it all together with hella greens.
And yo this is a bomb way of prepping tofu! The trick is that you pre-bake the tofu in cornstarch to get it nice and dry before tossing it in the sauce and baking further. The tofu gets crisp and the sauce sinks into the tofu. I got the idea from I my favorite process for making crispy baked sweet potato fries (thanks Sherrie!). And I figured, hell, why couldn't that work for tofu? Well, I'm glad my brain thought that. Because this crispy harissa tofu WINS.
Hey, what's Harissa?
Harissa is a Middle Eastern hot pepper paste traditionally made with a slew of hot peppers, spices, coriander and garlic. To make it more every-day friendly I've used spices that are more common to find: sweet chili and chipotle chili, nutmeg, coriander, fennel seed, and black pepper. Traditional harissa is incredibly spicy (and I tested this recipe with a more traditional harissa pepper paste. I was legit crying half way through the bowl. Ugly style, with snot coming out of my nose).
Needless to say, this harissa is less spicy than the traditional version. It's more of an accessible spicy. And you can kick up the heat as you like by adding more chipotle chili powder to your liking. Personally, I like my spicy food hot. But I want to be able to taste the flavor of the dish. I think this harissa floats right on that line: tasty with a kick.
The creamy sesame noodles are really savory and full of flavor thanks to a quick garlic-shallot sesame sauce. You brown minced shallot and garlic together and then whisk that together with toasted sesame oil, tahini and tamari (or coconut aminos). I always go for a balance of flavor in my dishes, so the creamy noodles play alongside the crispy-spicy-tangy tofu and a ton of crunchy baby greens perfectly.
(And, yeah, I totally shot this recipe before I finalized testing on the the sauce for the noodles. That's why they don't look all saucy like yours will when you make this!).
- Harissa Sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sweet chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (add more to increase spiciness)
- dash freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon Celtic sea salt + more to taste
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon fine Celtic sea salt
- 1 lb super firm tofu, cut into 1" cubes
- 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
- Sesame Noodles
- 8 oz (one box) brown rice pad thai noodles + drizzle toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 cup shallots, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 3 tablespoons coconut aminos / tamari
- 2-4 cups sprouts or micro-greens (I like to load in a ton of greens, that's just me!)
- optional: hulled white sesame seeds, to garnish
- Toast the coriander and fennel seeds for about 2 minutes in a dry pan until aromatic (the fennel may begin to pop as well). To the bowl of a high speed blender, add the toasted coriander and fennel, red wine vinegar, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, sweet chili powder, chipotle chili powder, nutmeg, black pepper and salt. Blend on high until the sauce is smooth. Taste and add more salt or spicy chipotle chili as you like.
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and sea salt. Add the tofu cubes and coconut oil to a medium mixing bowl and toss to evenly coat the tofu in oil. Add the cornstarch to the tofu and toss until everything is evenly coated. Spread the tofu out on the prepared baking sheet evenly, so none of the tofu cubes are touching. Bake for 15 minutes (the tofu will start to look dry, crisp and a little bit golden). Place the baked tofu back in your medium mixing bowl and toss with the harissa sauce until all of the tofu is evenly coated. Spread the tofu back out onto your baking sheet, making sure once again the none of the cubes are touching. Then bake for another 10 minutes.
- Make the pad thai noodles according to package directions (it takes about 8 mins, usually). Then, once the noodles are tender, drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water (this removes excess starch from the noodles). Place back in the pot and drizzle with a little bit of toasted sesame oil, just to keep the noodles from sticking.
- While the noodles are cooking: in a sauté pan or cast iron skillet sauté the minced shallot and garlic in 1 tablespoon coconut oil, stirring frequently. Continue until the garlic and shallots are browning and fragrant, about 2-5 minutes. Add the shallots to a small bowl along with the toasted sesame oil, tahini and coconut aminos. Whisk together to combine, then pour over the noodles and toss everything together.
- To serve, fill each bowl with sesame noodles, harissa tofu and loads of sprouts or micro greens. Top with sesame seeds, as a garnish. Enjoy!
Love you guys! xo -- Renee