Ayurvedic take on Chinese 5 Spice Noodles
Below is a recipe for my take on five spice noodles and how to adapt the spices to different ingredients to optimise flavours and digestion. It is a good recipe for the cooler days of the year.
Classic Chinese five spice recipe includes Szechuan Pepper, Cinnamon, Fennel, Star Anise and Cloves. Here I have used regular ground black pepper and substituted cloves for turmeric. Cloves are awesome when you need to cut through fat or are quite congested yourself. However, there are other occasions when the taste can be slightly overpowering. For this recipe I wanted to give the Tofu a gentler touch and therefore, I substituted cloves for Turmeric, which with its bitterness helps to balance the rest of the spice blend. However, it still has a subtle medicinal taste. For a meat version keeping the cloves can be preferable as for some digesting meat can be harder. Here I want the Tofu to sing.
Black pepper – pungent : Cinnamon – sweet, pungent : Fennel – sweet, bitter, pungent : Turmeric – pungent, bitter : Star Anise – pungent
For more information about the tastes see my 6 taste blog post.
Steaming, an awesome way to cook
Often in noodle recipes the vegetables will be sautéed and cooked in a wok. An advantage of this is that the vegetables take on the flavours in the pan. With this recipe though I want to keep the individual tastes of the vegetables present and retain a light quality to them. To achieve this I have steamed them on top of the noodles while they are cooking and then added them to spiced Tofu, once it has been cooked.
Is Tofu good for you?
There is much conflicting information around about whether Tofu is good for you. Here, as always, I refer to my favourite mantra, it is all a question of moderation and quality of the source. Eating it once in a while and enhancing it with spices can add variety to a diet.
We are very lucky in the UK that there are some incredible local artisan producers of Tofu like Tofurei in Norwich as well as some pretty good supermarket options too. A preferred source for me is Tofoo
Tofu as you may know is made out of Soya Beans. Soya beans are special as they contain all essential amino acids that are present in meat protein, this is unusual in the world of beans. They don’t however contain Vitamin B12 which is almost impossible to come by in a vegan diet and therefore requires supplementation.
From an ayurvedic perspective Tofu is astringent and nourishing. Depending on how it has been made it can also be considered to be slightly acidic. It can be hard to metabolically break down therefore by combining it with spices can help here.
- 1 star anise
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- 1 pinch fennel seeds
- 1 pinch turmeric
- 1 pinch ground cinnamon
- 120g Tofu or one handful leftover meat
- 1 pack udon noodles
- ½ carrot cut into thin strips
- ½ courgette cut into thin strips
- 1 head of swiss chard cut into strips
- 1 stick celery cut into thin strips
- Drizzle toasted sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic diced
- 1cm piece of ginger diced
- 1 tbs cashew nuts
- A few spashes Tamari soya sauce
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
Begin by grinding the spices together using a mortar and pestle, sprinkle over the Tofu or cooked meat. Then begin cooking the noodles as per packet instructions. Place vegetables in a steamer above the cooking noodles for 4-5 minutes until they are al dente. Remove the steamer and allow the noodles to continue to cook.
Meanwhile lightly fry the ginger, garlic and cashew nuts in the sesame oil for a minute or so, then add in the spiced Tofu a few splashes of Tamari soya sauce and cook for a further 4 minutes. Finally add in the steamed vegetables plus a splash of the noodle cooking water. Finally fold in the drained cooked noodles. Serve with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and any fresh herbs you have to hand.