Since my sister returned from a brief trip to Hawaii last month, my family has lingered longer than usual in nostalgia. The residual effect of that last-minute excursion, still fresh in everyone's mind, prompts my parents to speak more often of fond memories of their island upbringing. Usually, cravings for the food associated with that time and place are likewise triggered. During my own childhood, such remembrances of local-style Hawaiian fare translated into many meals involving replications of dishes enjoyed back home. Those days, as a very picky eater with a taste for mainland American food, I didn't care much for the cuisine my parents loved so much. Now, my tastes having changed, I am typically rather eager to revisit those very same dishes and adapt them to fit my dietary preferences.
My most recent foray into the realm of island cuisine, like so many since I became vegan, required adapting the classic version of the dish in question. And with something like Chicken Long Rice--a soupy dish of chicken and thin noodles that made its way to Hawaii via Chinese cuisine--certain substitutions are clearly needed in order to make the dish vegan-friendly. In this case, those substitutions were easy to make; tofu and vegetable broth replaced the chicken and chicken broth, respectively, instantly turning the old, meaty classic into an equally hearty and delicious dish that might become a new classic in my animal-free arsenal of recipes. As further departure from tradition, I added greens and carrot to my version for extra flair. Although the "long rice" portion of the dish is actually a misnomer--saifun (bean thread noodles) are typically used, not rice noodles--I decided to be consistent with the dish's moniker by using rice vermicelli. In fact, the dish is often eaten along or atop steamed rice. Saifun would, of course, make a fine substitute for the rice noodles and make serving the dish with rice less redundant.
Tofu Long Rice (printable recipe)
Yields 4-6 servings
8 oz extra-firm tofu, drained and cubed
8 oz thin rice noodles (rice vermicelli; also known as bihon at Filipino markets)
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 tsp fresh ginger, smashed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c green onion, chopped
3 c vegetarian chicken broth (regular works fine)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 c swiss chard leaves (stems removed) or bok choy, chopped
Shoyu, to taste
Oil or water, for sauteeing
In a medium bowl, combine 1 1/2 c broth, ginger, garlic, and ground black pepper. Add the tofu and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Fill a large bowl with enough warm water to cover the dried noodles. Submerge the noodles in the water and set them aside to soften while you prepare the rest of the dish.
Heat a large pot over medium. Lightly oil or add a few tablespoons of water, then add the onion and carrot. Drizzle with shoyu to taste and saute until the onion is just cooked and golden around the edges. Add half of the green onion and all the swiss chard (or bok choy) and saute until wilted. Remove to a plate or bowl and set aside.
Drain the tofu, reserving the broth/marinade. Using the same pot in which you cooked the vegetables, cook the tofu until golden brown on all sides, adding more oil if necessary to prevent sticking. Add the broth to the tofu and bring the contents of the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the liquid simmers. Drain the soaked rice noodles, add them to the broth and tofu, and allow to simmer just until the noodles are tender. Mix in the vegetables and allow them to heat through. Top with the remaining green onion. Serve hot, alone or with steamed rice, and enjoy!