with Crisp Noodle Pancake and All the Trimmings
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- 12 ounces pressed tofu
- 1 clove garlic
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil*
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Fresh chile
- 1 cup loosely packed mixed herbs
- 1 cucumber
- 1 daikon radish
- 1 head Bibb lettuce
- 2 ounces shallots
- 2 limes
- 4 ounces rice noodles
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- *not included
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Pulse the tofu and garlic together in a food processor until it’s crumbled and combined but not pureed. Put 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet (preferably cast iron or nonstick) over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the tofu and garlic mixture. Immediately add pinches of salt, pepper, and sugar, and cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture browns a bit, 8 to 12 minutes.
Rinse and dry the chile, herbs, cucumber, daikon, and lettuce. Peel and thinly slice the shallot. Trim and chop the chile. Strip the leaves from the herb stems and chop them; thinly slice the cucumber. Peel the daikon; discard the peels. Continue to peel around the daikon with a vegetable peeler, creating ribbons. Rinse the limes; halve and juice one into a large bowl and cut one into wedges.
Add the noodles to the boiling water and stir occasionally. Start tasting them after 2 minutes; they should be tender but not mushy. Drain the noodles into a colander, rinse them with cold water, and shake off the excess water.
Transfer the tofu mixture to the bowl with the lime juice. Add the tamari and some or all of the chile (depending on your affinity for heat) and toss a few times to combine. Let the mixture sit for a minute, and then taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more chile if you’d like. Add the herbs and shallots and toss well.
Rinse the skillet and wipe it dry. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the noodles and press down with a spatula. Cook, pressing down occasionally with the spatula and adjusting the heat so the noodles don’t burn, until they’re brown and crisp on the bottom, 5 to 7 minutes. Slide the pancake onto a cutting board and cut into 4 wedges.
Tear or cut the lettuce leaves into little cups you can grab with your hands. To serve, put the lettuce on a platter with the larb, cucumbers, daikon, lime wedges, and noodle pancake wedges. To eat, spoon a little of the larb into a lettuce cup or onto a piece of noodle cake, add a few vegetables, and squeeze with lime; fold or roll.