I was making a batch of my sambal potatoes the other day, and I couldn’t get enough of the sauce. The sauce is spicy, sweet, and tangy–a combination of crushed tomatoes, sambal oelek, and coconut milk. Naturally, I wondered if the sauce would work well with other recipes. After doing several rounds of testing, I landed on this sambal noodles recipe.
I kept most of the key ingredients the same, but I also made a few tweaks. To make the sauce silkier for tossing with noodles, I used tomato sauce as the base instead of crushed tomatoes. However, you can use crushed tomatoes for the recipe. It’s just that the sauce will be a little thicker.
INGREDIENT FOCUS: SAMBAL ULEK
One of the key ingredients in this sambal noodles recipe is sambal ulek (also spelled as sambal oelek). This chili paste is native to Indonesia and commonly used in South Asian cuisine. Sambal means a hot sauce or paste made from chili peppers. Ulek means “to grind.” Put together, sambal ulek refers to a chili paste that is made from grinding chili peppers, usually with a pestle and mortar.
In general, I can find sambal oelek in grocery stores throughout Sacramento. Alternatively, they are available online on Amazon. I also tried this recipe with chili garlic sauce, which works as well. The only difference I noticed was that the chili garlic sauce seemed spicier, so you may want to use less.
HOW TO SLICE TOFU TRIANGLES
For the tofu, I like slicing them into triangles for presentation. To do so, I take a block of tofu, and slice it into 1/2-inch slices. Then, I take each slice and cut them in half to get 2 smaller rectangles. Finally, I take each rectangle and slice them diagonally to get small tofu triangles.
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30-Minute Spicy Sambal Noodles with Pan-Fried Tofu
- 14 to 16 ounces super firm tofu (see note 1)
- 2 tablespoons safflower oil (see note 2)
- pinch of kosher salt
- 10 ounces rice noodles
- 2 tablespoons safflower oil
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 cup tomato sauce (can use crushed tomatoes or tomato puree)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons sambal ulek (sambal oelek)
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
- 1/4 cup canned coconut milk
- sliced scallions for garnish
Pan Fry Tofu
- Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch slices. Then, cut them in half to get 2 smaller rectangles. Finally, take each rectangle and slice them diagonally to get small tofu triangles.
- Heat a large nonstick pan with 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu to the pan. If all the tofu doesn’t fit inside the pan, fry the tofu in 2 batches. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the tofu.
- Pan fry the tofu for 3 to 4 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown. Then, flip over the tofu and pan fry the other side for another 3 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and leave the tofu in the pan and set aside.
- While you pan fry the tofu, start cooking the noodles. In a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to boil. Add the rice noodles and cook them according to the package directions (I cooked mine for 5 to 6 minutes). Stir the noodles frequently to keep them from sticking together. This is particularly important when you first add the noodles to the saucepan.
- Once the noodles are cooked, drain the noodles and rinse them under cold water (see note 3).
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook them for about 2 to 3 minutes, until they soften. Next, add the minced garlic and ginger, and cook them for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant.
- Add the tomato sauce, sambal oelek, brown sugar, salt, and coriander (if using) to the skillet. Stir to combine. Cover the skillet with the lid, and let the sauce cook for 5 to 6 minutes.
- Uncover the skillet, add the coconut milk, and stir to combine.
- Scoop out 1/3 cup of the sauce and toss it with the tofu.
- Add the rice noodles to the remaining sauce and toss to coat the noodles with the sauce. Turn off the heat.
- Serve the noodles with the tofu. Garnish with sliced scallions, if desired.
- You can also use extra-firm tofu for this recipe. Drain the block of tofu, wrap it in a layer of paper towels, and press it under a stack of plates for 15 to 20 minutes.
- You can use any neutral-flavored oil in this recipe, such as canola oil, vegetable oil, etc.
- Cooked rice noodles stick together easily. As an extra precaution, you can toss the cooked and rinsed noodles with 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil. This will prevent the noodles from getting gummy and sticking together.