Over the last few months the chef Jamie Oliver has been the centre of a “cultural appropriation” twitter storm over his Jerk Rice. Slammed, firstly because the spices he uses are not traditional jerk seasoning and secondly no one in Jamaica would consider jerking rice at all. But Jamie is not the first.
Singapore noodles, spicy stir fried rice noodles, available in nearly every Chinese restaurant and take away in the UK Singaporeans would regard you with horror if you even suggested it. It’s thought that in the 80’s, a Hong Kong chef took a traditional Singapore dish of stir fried rice vermicelli noodles and added a favourite British flavour….curry! The noodle equivalent of chips and curry sauce. It may be gastronomic appropriation but it doesn’t mean it can’t taste good.
When you have Singapore noodles in restaurants they tend to be heavy on the noodles and the oil but if you make them yourself, which is very quick and easy to do, you can overload the veg and substitute the more traditional cured pork and prawns for tofu or edamame (soy) beans.
I’ve jazzed up the tofu a little by coating it in a spiced dust and also added dried mushrooms to give extra umami (deliciousness). The key to this dish is making sure that everything is prepared in advance as it will only take minutes to stir fry.
Purists will note that in the photograph I’ve not made this with rice vermicelli noodles but substituted with some Vietnamese rice noodles I had a lot of. However as this dish is all about gastronomic appropriation I thought it was appropriate. Who knows, in forty years VietSing noodles may be a thing?
Time: 20 minutes preparation, 5 minutes cooking
- 280g firm tofu
- 2 tbs rice flour
- 1 tsp Chinese five spice
- 1/4 tsp chili power
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 red and 1 green pepper
- 1 onion
- 225g tinned bamboo shoots, drained
- 175g baby corn
- 200g beansprouts
- 100g cavolo nero kale
- 1 Birdseye chilli
- 4 radish
- 8 spring onions
- 400g rice noodles (vermicelli if you can get them)
- 2 tsp curry power (Madras preferably)
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 40g dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 tbs soy sauce
- 2 tbs rice wine
- 2 tsp sesame oil
Mix the dry ingredients for the tofu in a bowl large enough to comfortably fit the tofu. Slice the tofu in to even cubes, around 1.5 cm in diameter. Add to the dry ingredients and toss thoroughly.
Rinse the porcini mushrooms under a tap, leave to soak for a few minutes and then slice finely. Pour boiling water over the noodles until covered and leave for 5 minutes.
Slice the peppers, onions and sweetcorn. Also slice the radish and spring onion but keep them separate for garnish later along with a handful of bean sprouts.
Drain the rice noodles and cut a few times with scissors. Everything is now ready to begin cooking.
In a frying pan heat two teaspoons of olive oil to a medium heat. Add the tofu, shaking off any extra flour. Continue to fry, turning occasionally until golden brown.
Meanwhile, heat a large wok until very hot. Add one tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the porcini mushrooms and stir fry for a minute. Add the spices and fry for a minute or so until fragrant. Add the remaining vegetables, other than the garnish and stir fry for a further minute. Add the noodles, soy sauce, rice wine and continue to stir fry for another couple of minutes. Add the sesame oil and you are now ready to serve.
Plate up by putting the noodle mixture in a large bowl or individual plates, sprinkle the tofu over the top and then garnish with the spring onions, radish and remaining bean sprouts. Serve immediately.