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The very first time I dined on a version of these cold Asian noodles, my palate erupted in pure joy, and to this day, I crave them constantly. Once you, too, have tried them, the noodles’ combination of savory flavors and textures at play should hook you. The dressing comprises black garlic, whose normal bite fermentation has mellowed, creating a sweet umami flavor.

Serves | 2 |

BLACK GARLIC DRESSING (Yields about 3 cups)

  •  1 bulb black garlic
  •  1½ cups black vinegar
  •  ¼ cup granulated sugar
  •  1 cup pecan oil
  •  5 Tbsp chiu chow-style chili oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

TOFU

  •  1 package extra-firm tofu, cubed
  •  1 tsp kosher salt
  •  1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  •  3 Tbsp cornstarch
  •  3 Tbsp canola oil, divided
  •  2 Tbsp minced ginger
  •  1 Tbsp minced garlic
  •  2 shallots, julienned
  •  2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  •  ½ cup black garlic dressing

RICE VERMICELLI NOODLES

  •  1 lb rice vermicelli noodles
  •  1 cup cubed cucumber
  •  1 Tbsp chili oil
  •  ½ tsp granulated sugar
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  •  1 cup roughly chopped fresh mint
  •  1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  •  ½ cup finely diced green onion
  •  1 cup roughly chopped peanuts
  •  1 cup black garlic dressing

| Preparation – Black Garlic Dressing | In the bowl of a blender, combine black garlic, black vinegar and sugar, and pulse to combine. Slowly stream in pecan oil. Transfer mixture to a bowl, add chili oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate till ready to use.

| Preparation – Tofu | In a medium bowl, add tofu, salt, pepper and cornstarch, and toss to combine. In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons canola oil. Once oil is hot, add tofu and cook until browned on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer tofu to a small bowl. Add remaining canola oil to sauté pan, and add ginger, garlic, shallots and sugar; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, till translucent, and add tofu back to pan along with black garlic dressing. Cook until tofu is well coated and mixture is slightly reduced, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

| Preparation – Rice Vermicelli Noodles | In a medium saucepot over medium heat, bring enough water to cover noodles to a boil; add noodles. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or till desired consistency. Drain noodles in a colander, and run cool water over them.

In a large bowl, combine cucumber, chili oil and sugar; toss to coat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to marinate at room temperature for 5 minutes. Add mint, cilantro, green onion, peanuts, noodles, cooked tofu and black garlic dressing. Toss to combine and adjust seasoning to taste. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour. Serve cold.

Amanda Elliott is the chef at Peachtree Catering (peachtreebanquet.com) in Columbia, Missouri, and authors the website Rustic Supper (rusticsupper.com), where she shares recipes centering on the idea of the communal table and embracing the heritage of food through travel. She also hosts a series of pop-up dinners in Columbia called Sunday Suppers.