I began cleaning out my fridge today in preparation for a two-week trip.  Much to my surprise, instead of finding a mold-smothered Chobani® and a liquefied sack of celery, I found inspiration for dinner.

Hidden in a back corner of the fridge, was a jar of pickled red shiso leaves my mother had given me several months ago.  One of her girlfriends had grown and pickled this shiso, which can be eaten on its own (over hot rice, for example) or used as an agent for pickling and coloring umeboshi.  Since my mom had so thoughtfully wrapped this shiso for a leak-proof 9-hour plane ride, I thought I should use it in a meal that paid tribute to her.  One of her standby dinner techniques while I was growing up was to use packaged dry ramen noodles, discard the enclosed soup base sachet, then stir-fry the noodles with meat and veggies in a sauce of her own creation.  So I came up with shiso noodles:

Shiso Noodles

  • 1 package ramen noodles (discard the seasoning packet)
  • handful of pickled shiso leaves

Boil and drain the ramen.  Toss with minced shiso.  Can add tofu, meat, or veggies.

There was also a package of tofu sitting in the fridge.  It had a mid-July expiration stamp, but I decided to err on the side of caution and use it pre-trip.  I turned again to my mother’s cooking for inspiration — one of my most memorable childhood kitchen activities was helping her dredge fish or chicken in egg, then panko, before she pan-fried the fillets.  I loved watching the crispy planks pile up on a paper towel-lined plate; the higher that pyramid of fried fish became, the more my mouth watered.

I imitated my mom’s process with my tofu.  Instead of breadcrumbs or panko, I opted for gomashio, a Japanese sesame seed-salt condiment to provide texture and a salty, nutty flavor.  I also went with a light pan-fry, not wanting this to turn into a deep-fried slub of a dish — equal parts sesame and olive oil, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.

Gomashio Crusted Tofu

  • 1 block of firm tofu, cut into 1/8ths
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup gomashio (sesame seed + salt)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Coat tofu by dipping in scrambled egg, then in gomashio.  Cook tofu in mixture of the two oils, turning so that each side crisps.

This was a delightfully nostalgic dinner.  While preparing it, I felt like that little girl teetering dangerously on a stepstool in my mom’s kitchen again.  It was quick — 30 minutes start to finish.  And the sour-salty noodles made the perfect backdrop to the tofu.

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