Bon Appétit's Pumpkin-Seed-Crusted Tofu with Lemongrass Broth, Rice Noodles, and Poached Eggs

Dear Readerrrrrs,
Remember the cold soup from last week and the yellow gazpacho a couple of weeks before that? I knew you would. That's why, despite the continuation of this insane heatwave, I decided to face my fears and attempt the exact opposite meal: hot soup.

I know what you are thinking--about those two people on Top Chef last night who decided to make New England clam chowder in the desert. But no, to be honest, I wouldn't really call this soup. I mean, the recipe title doesn't even call it a soup, so I guess it's not a soup, but broth is involved. Hot broth.

To give you a feel for our cooking situation, our kitchen is tucked two rooms away from our one and only a.c. unit in the living room, and since the kitchen faces another apartment building, it receives no breeze despite continuously open windows. And not to complain--I just want to share the experience with you all (including my mom even though she hasn't logged on to this blog since May)--but the cooking is just the half of it. Washing dishes is where things get really intense.

Anyway, I wanted to continue on the vegetarian path, but this time, really do something amazing, something that would show Matt that tofu can be awesome, and after trolling Bon Appétit's website (the Top Ten Best New Restaurant's in America section to be exact), I found the below, courtesy of Brooklyn's No. 7, a spot I will definitely check out next time I'm in New York.

Let's begin.
Bon Appétit's version:

our version:
This is one of those recipes that's really two completely different recipes disguised as one. See, one of the ingredients called for is lemongrass broth, and I as I wrote it down on my grocery list, I realized it was clickable, and when I clicked on it, it turned into another long list of ingredients and directions on how to make lemongrass broth. Whatevs, I thought. It's just broth, right?
What's to a broth? It's just gathering fresh ingredients from your tiny little potted garden sitting on your back entrance's railing and the farmer's market and throwing them in a stockpot with some water and boiling it, right?
It's not like making broth calls for popcorn or anything? Oh, wait. This recipe does. At once I recalled those strange Orville Redenbacher commercials where Orville gave his gourmet popping corn hard sell: Great as a midnight snack, perfect for watching movies and... adds pop to a homemade broth?

FYI: I would suggest tackling this part of the recipe ahead of time, especially since the radishes, which accompany the dish, call for soaking in white wine vinegar overnight.

After straining all of this stuff out, we were finally left with some lemongrass broth, which we let cool and then chilled overnight so that the next day, we could put our full focus on the tofu. And in my experience, this is what tofu needs--lots of focus. First, we sliced the tofu and then laid it out on some paper towels to dry up. I think this is the KEY step missing in almost all of my previous non-blogged-about tofu attempts. It's just too watery if you just chop it up and throw it in your stir fry.

Dredging it in egg whites followed by crushed pumpkin seeds and panko bread crumbs, and then frying it in 3/4 inch of vegetable oil helped, too.

Have you guys ever eaten the Korean dish, Bi bim bap? In college, my pals and I would eat it all the time, but due to my extremely weird food choices (read: perma-diet), I would order this dish minus the fried egg on top. When I got a little older and began believing in myself as a person, I started ordering it with the fried egg, and was sad to realize all that I had been missing. There is simply something wonderful about egg yolk dripping into rice and asian vegetables, and well, maybe just about anything.

So even though I was drenched in sweat at this point, there was no way I was going to skip the final step: the poached egg, and truly, the yolk mixing in with the broth was totally what made this recipe go from good to outstanding.
Also, if you plan on making this, don't skip out on the pickled radishes. They were the perfect compliment to all those umami flavors going on in the broth and tofu.

To conclude, this recipe was tough and time consuming, but a total vegetarian standout. I think if I attempted it again though, I might just use miso broth from a packet--the broth caused just three too many huge pots to be cleaned.

In other news, in case you didn't notice from the sidebar of this blog, Matt and I decided it's time for our new Eat Local Love t-shirt to become America's next big thing, so stay tuned for a giveaway in the very near future!


Mary Anne said...

So, so, many things to comment on re this post.

1) Yours looks better. SUCCESS.

2) Popping corn?? Wha??? So confused. What did this add? Corn flavor to a lemongrass broth??

3) I did not remember that you ordered your bibim baps sans egg. That makes me shed a little tear inside.

4) I think I might attempt this one too, broth and all. Just looks AMAZING.

brock said...

why are your fingers bloody in the tofu-dredging photo?

Jess said...

OMG I want to eat this right now.

Jodi said...

I second Mary Anne's question...what do you think the popcorn did to the broth!? This is maybe your most elaborate attempt yet!

bon appetempt said...

According to the recipe, the popcorn adds "flavor and depth" to the broth. It sorta did, though it was very subtle.

Matt said...

Fried tofu is awesome. I loved this and would have it again in a heartbeat!

The818 said...

See? This is why I hate cooking. I would never have the foresight to figure out to leave that shit soaking overnight, and then I would have a total panic attack in my kitchen and start crying.

Once again, Bon Appetempt saves me from a mental breakdown.

Anonymous said...

Your non-soup looks fantastic. We want to try it now -- even dadbers the carnivore. By the way, Sushi Kim in Pittsburgh has an amazing dolsot bi bim bap (with egg). Mombers and Dadbers

Doug Diesenhaus said...

This has perhaps the most complex photography of any attempt so far, no?

Amelia Morris said...

DOUG! you're right. thanks for noticing. :)

Sprouted Kitchen said...

so funny! this is where i got the inspiration for my last post! i commend you for following directions! still looks good to me...