Salty

Noodle donut with crispy tofu and red onion marmalade (vegan)

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In a world with no bread, how on earth can one expect to create a sandwich? Ok well claiming that there’s no bread in the small Chinese city where I’m currently located is a slight exaggeration- there is bread…the sweet, white, vanilla kind, but then that’s about it. You could buy a loaf twice the size of your head and it would still feel like you’d eaten nothing but air.

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I miss those dense breads the bakeries back in England so commonly sold. Though come to think of it, I never actually ate much bread, in fact it was a rarity. But now that I don’t have the option, I really fancy a sandwich! Guess we always want what we can’t have.

Actually screw that, we CAN have what we want. Why should we conform? If I want a bloody sandwich then that’s what I’m having! Hmm, I guess I have to make it quite literally from scratch, which means bread too. I have to be blunt, I’m not really a fan of baking bread, predominantly because I dislike the dough-making process, which is definitely a lengthy one. So all that fuss over bread and now I can’t be arsed to make it. But I’m determined to eat a sandwich so what can fill in for the starchy exterior?

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I was on a domestic flight to Shanghai recently and despite the journey lasting only one hour, the airline served up an inventive treat – a rice sandwich. The buns made of white, stodgy rice and the filling, an oily collaboration between pork and chilli. Not really the greatest filling I’ve had, but the rice buns, what an innovative move. Ok, now I do have rice a fair bit since the province I’m based in for work in the North of China bases every meal of the day on it, so I have a bout of rice fatigue. But what I haven’t got sick of yet are noodles- now they could quite possibly work.

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There are so many subtypes of noodles here, usually made up of just flour and water, but I thought I’d go for the spaghetti type ones (for old time’s sake back in Europe), which I plan to glue together with a faux cheese sauce. The numerous styles of tofu are just as varied as the noodles- I’ve gone for a meaty steak of fermented bean curd to stick between my buns.

Serving size:

Makes 4 burgers

Ingredients:

  • 500g spaghetti
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50ml vegetable oil
  • 450ml soya milk
  • 2tbsp yeast flakes
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 4 medium tofu steaks
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 3tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 2tbsp vinegar
  • 2tbsp sugar
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Boil noodles until al dente and leave aside.
  2. Heat the flour and vegetable oil together until a smooth dough is achieved.
  3. Slowly whisk in the milk and stir over a medium heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  4. Mix in the nutmeg, yeast flakes and salt.
  5. Stir the sauce into the noodles, lay out flat on a baking tray and leave to cool.
  6. Using a cookie cutter, cut the noodle ‘cake’ into rounds and place on a greased baking tray.
  7. Bake at 190C for 20 minutes.
  8. For the onion marmalade, pan fry the onions in 2tbsp oil fir 15 minutes until brown.
  9. Add the vinegar, salt, sugar and 3tbsp water and leave to simmer for a further 15 minutes before cooling.
  10. Pan fry the tofu steaks in 1tbsp oil until golden brown on both sides (roughly 10 minutes) and place between the noodle buns topped with the onion marmalade.

No need to struggle with chopsticks when you can just eat the noodles straight from the palm of your hand- sandwich style.

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