I do realize that when eating out one should seize the opportunity to broaden their culinary horizons, or perhaps venture into new gastronomic territory, but there’s this wonderful little restaurant (Robin’s) in Cambria, Ca. that we love, and when there, I invariably end up ordering the same thing. No matter how seriously I promise myself that this time I will try one of their beautiful curries or maybe the tandoori chicken, I cave. When asked for my order, the words “I’ll have the Chow” escape my lips before I have the chance to warn the waitress to disregard my first request. And then that fragrant bowl of Chow arrives and all thoughts of what could have been vanish. Oh, I do love the Chow.
So what the heck is Chow, you may be wondering? As you can see from the photo, it’s a pasta dish, but oh so much more. It’s also a veggie-laden stir fry with big chunks of soy-laced tofu dressed with soy, ginger, scallions and garlic.
Living halfway across the country from that wondrous little restaurant has made it imperative that I re-create my beloved Chow for home use. I think I have come gosh darn close to the original, and since it’s Meatless Monday, I have decided to share the recipe so you, too, can enjoy Chow at home. If you’re ever in that charming, quaint little town by the sea, you really must stop in at Robin’s. But I won't tell you what to order.
2 tablespoons vegetable or wok oil
4 cups assorted vegies (broccoli, mushrooms, green beans, asparagus, zucchini, etc.) (If using broccoli, green beans, carrots or cauliflower, quickly blanch them briefly before stir frying)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 scallions, thinly sliced on a diagonal
2 inches fresh ginger root, minced or grated with hand grater
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, or more if you want it spicier
12 - 16 oz whole grain spaghetti, cooked to just al dente and drained (reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water)
1/2 cup aged tamari soy sauce (plus a little more for the tofu)
¼ cup vegetable stock or pasta cooking water
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (plus a little more for the tofu)
1 14-oz tub of extra firm tofu (remove as much moisture as you can and it cut into 1-inch chunks)
2 scallions, sliced for serving
Cook the pasta. (I cook the whole grain pasta just under what the box calls for.) While that cooks, heat a large wok or saute pan over high heat, add the oil and then your tofu. Saute until golden, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the pan and place in a bowl, drizzle with some soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir to coat the tofu well and set aside.
Add another tablespoon or two of oil to the same pan and throw in the ginger, scallions, crushed red pepper and garlic. Saute for two minutes and then add the veggies. Stir fry until just barely cooked through, another 3 or 4 minutes.
Stir together the soy sauce, hoisin and chicken stock and add to the pan with the veggies. Add the tofu and the cooked pasta, and heat through, using tongs to get the veggies and meat mixed in with the pasta.
Remove from the heat and turn into a serving bowl, drizzle with a little more sesame oil, sprinkle with the remaining scallions and serve immediately.