My older (and only) sister Madeline is my best friend and about half a foot shorter than I am. We love to eat, drink and complain together, and people often mistake our voices on the phone. She is also responsible for many of my and Sean’s nicknames due to a series of Gchat typos. I now answer to Merf, and Sean is affectionately known as Dean.
Over the past couple years, Mad has become quite a fierce cook. So when she texted me that she was successful in making a simple mung bean (or bean thread) noodle salad, I replied, “Where do you even buy those?! You have to do a guest blog about it!”
So here it is, in Mad’s–also Maddy, Mat or Mac’s–own words. This also happens to be the 101st blog entry of Marge’s Next Meal! A very fitting way to commemorate 101 posts. (As you can see, I forgot to mention when I hit the 100 mark last week.)
Simple bean thread salad
by Maddy Shea
Growing up in our family, I think it is fair to say that with all the wonderful food provided to us everyday, I was never the one with the obvious talent for cooking. There are a whole host of meals I am loath to eat outside of my family’s versions because I already know that they will never measure up. My mom’s cooking still consists of my personal standard and ideal of what constitutes a homemade meal. So hearty meals like spaghetti and meatballs, German roladen, and stuffed chicken are absolutely never going to taste as good if they come from some outside source. My sister, now an accomplished chef and food expert, has created some of the most delicious foods I have ever tasted–Marge, I recall requesting that pork and ramen soup… where is it?? Even my dad has this one-of-a-kind knack for barbeque chicken so that I tend to stay on the safe side when at a picnic or barbeque restaurant and just go with a burger.
Needless to say, when it came to establishing my own cooking habits, I already had some pretty high standards. In fact, I still won’t eat many of the things I cook myself. One area in which I have begun to feel more confident, however, is lunch. I have always been better off throwing together what our mom has affectionately called “picky dinners,” or meals made up of a variety of small things–sandwiches cut into fours, bowls of nuts, slices of cheese, a fruit salad–rather than cooking full-blown meals complete with all kinds of appropriately coordinated side dishes.
One dish in this vein of “things tossed together” of which I am particularly proud is the bean thread salad. It is roughly based on the bean thread salad you can order at most Thai restaurants and of course largely based on what I find to be enjoyable to eat.
This salad also offers a very malleable palette; you can include whatever ingredients you find to be most enjoyable. I happen to think sugar snap peas, shrimp, and water chestnuts would be great additions if you’re looking for greater variety. In fact, it’s so easy to make and lends so easily to personal taste that it is now a meal that rivals its restaurant-prepared cousin.
But what I love most about this meal is that it would not have been possible without my family’s shared love of savory, simple foods and some important takeaways from my all-time favorite cooks: mom’s homemade salad dressing is proof that all you really need is lemon juice and oil; my sister’s ability to make ordinary food special just by slicing it thinly; and my dad’s love of a little spicy kick to make things interesting.
Bean thread salad with fried tofu
1 package firm tofu
Soy sauce, as needed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 package mung bean noodles
3-4 green onions
1 large jalapeno pepper, stemmed
2 medium carrots, ends trimmed and peeled
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, plus a few reserved for garnish
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Method: First, put pressure on the tofu to squeeze out all the excess water. This can be done by placing a flat surface on top of it and weighting that down with a dense object like a cookbook or a can.
Once the water is removed, cut the tofu into 1/4-inch cubes and sprinkle with soy sauce until each cube has been evenly coated. This will give the tofu a much richer flavor.
Pour the oil in a large skillet over medium-high and add the tofu. Turn the cubes until they are browned and a bit crispy. This will take about 7 minutes. Place the browned tofu on a paper towel-lined plate, and set aside to cool.
Cook the mung bean noodles according to the package directions. After boiling them, I usually rinse them in cold water to speed up the cooling process.
On a large cutting board, thinly slice the green onion and jalapeno pepper. It is important to slice the pepper into very thin slivers to evenly distribute the heat. Next, shave the carrot in long strips with a vegetable peeler. Mince the cilantro.
In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Then layer into the bowl a handful of noodles with a small pile of peeled carrots, some of the chopped green onions and jalapenos, a mini handful of tofu, and a pinch of cilantro. Repeat until all ingredients have been incorporated into the bowl. Layering the ingredients will aid in the mixing process. Toss the ingredients thoroughly with tongs, ensuring the noodles are coated with the lemon dressing and ingredients are evenly spread throughout.
To serve, heap onto plates or into deep bowls, and garnish with a few whole cilantro leaves. Serve cold or at room temperature. Serves 4 (or 2 hungry sisters, plus leftovers).