Food for Fuel: Chili and Sesame-Roasted Tofu Goodness Bowl Ava Szajna-Hopgood

That all-pervading diet tip from the 1660s, that one must eat to live and not live to eat, is usually pretty far from my thinking when I work out what I want for dinner. No offence, Molière, but as timeless as your (slightly judgy) advice is, it’s not the kind of innovation that gave us pizza ice cream now, is it? However, if you feel like you could do with a cleanse or need a bit of a reboot after an essay hand-in, thinking about food as a fuel that can also taste good is a great way to prepare for anything about to knock you sideways.

As tempting as it is to reach for the take-out menu each time you want indulge, sometimes eating well in advance can feel far better in the long run. How many of us eat to actually fuel for a mental challenge? As much as we calorie count and control portions, when was the last time you put your mental well-being first when planning dinner? And I’m not talking about how great a solo Chinese feels, I’m really not.

While so-called ‘superfoods’ may have turned out to be little more than hype, cooking to sustain yourself for the days ahead can mean you’re way more prepared for whatever gets flung at you instead of relying on sugar highs (and the inevitable lows) or whatever caffeine there is on hand. So whether you’ve got exams on the horizon or one too many night shifts at work this week, being mindful of the foods you chose to sustain yourself with is a great way to prepare.

This goodness bowl is piled high with different flavors and textures all working together to make you feel full and ready to get going once you’ve finished it. Chili peppers, being super fiery, mean adding them to your meals will fill you up for longer. Eating garlic is a great way of strengthening your immune system and is high in vitamin B6, as well as being thought of as an effective mood-stabilizer. Because it’s vegan and gluten free, this bowl is a pretty lean offering that will set you up for the day ahead. It’s the perfect thing if you’ve pulled an all night study session- it’s got plenty of flavor and a chili click, with none of the downers a binge on junk food is going to bring. You can eat three bowls of this stuff and still feel good. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience here.

Also, you can switch up the ingredients to what you have to hand or is in season, but the combination below is a tried and tested all-rounder. Let me know if you come up with any other variations!

Roasted chili tofu

Chili and Sesame-Roasted Tofu Goodness Bowl

Makes enough for four portions

Ingredients
For the roasted tofu:

  • 14oz pack of organic, firm tofu
  • Vegetable oil for roasting
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • Chili sauce

Everything else:

  • 2 cups dark greens such as kale, sprout tops or leaves or cavolo nero
  • 1 chili pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce (or regular soy sauce if you don’t require gluten free)
  • 2 portions of vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 inch of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large scallion, chopped small
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into matchstick slices (aka as thin strips as you can without grating)
  • 2 cups miso stock
  • Juice of one lime

Preheat the oven to 400°F/ 200°C. To prepare the tofu for roasting, start by pressing out any excess liquid from it by wrapping in a clean kitchen cloth or kitchen paper and stand a cook book or another heavy item on top. Make sure it’s stable and leave to soak for fifteen minutes or so while you prepare the roasting tray.

Grab a large oven-proof dish and drizzle over the vegetable oil so it is well covered. In a dry frying pan, toast the sesame seeds until they just start to darken, and add these to the roasting tray. Once the tofu has dried out a little, cut into bitesize chunks and also add to the tray. Mix in the tofu with the sesame seeds and some chili sauce, and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes. You’ll need to check on the tofu a few times and add a little more oil if needed, ensuring the pieces don’t stick to the tray/dish or burn.

While the tofu is roasting, prepare everything else to fill your bowl with. Add greens and sliced garlic and chili to a wok or frying pan with the soy sauce and cook on a high heat for about five minutes. Once cooked, set aside until you’re ready to plate everything up.

Chop up the carrots and boil for a few minutes until al dente (no-one needs soggy carrots here) and in a separate pan, boil the red cabbage until it’s just cooked through. When the tofu is nearly ready, prepare the miso stock and cook the vermicelli noodles for 2 minutes in boiling water.

roasted chili 8

Now you’re ready to plate up. Start with the drained noodles, then add in the greens, drained carrots and drained cabbage. Next pile on the roasted tofu chunks, adding in the sesame seeds for extra crunch and flavour. Top off with the chopped scallions, ginger slices and half a cup of miso stock per bowl, and a final squeeze of lime juice.

Featured image via the author

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