First, you should know that Montreal apartments don’t come with fridges or stoves. Fucked if I know why. It’s not like 19 year-olds rolling out of college have savings lined up for the purchase of household appliances. They’re lucky if they’ve got beer money for the party next weekend. To make matters worse, we have had some of the weirdest architectural rules on the continent due to a sordid mix of terrible policy making, the mob, the church, the police, and the real estate board. That story requires a whole new post, but the gist is that you can’t get an apartment in the Plateau of Montreal without at least a flight or two of sketchy, half-broken, ice-covered external stairs that you have to move appliances up and down every time you bail on your lease in search of a noncorrupt landlord (good luck). As a result of all this there is a thriving circulation of used appliances working its way through craigslist, second-hand stores, and the sidewalks of the student ghetto on the first of each month. None of which have ever made it into my home.
After careful consideration of the broken-ass stairs up to my third-story flat, my roomate and I decided that perhaps it would be best if we just got a mini fridge and hot plate rather than doing the traditional neck-breaking rite of passage that the locals endure to make it into their apartments.
This actually works surprisingly well for us, by and large. She mostly lives off my leftovers, I walk by three grocers on my way home from work, cold beer is available right across the street til 11pm. We have a system. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough.
But right at this moment, only the second burner on my ancient hotplate is working, and the fridge is turning everything into inedible blocks of ice. Except the PBR. It’s actually making the PBR drinkable. So after feeding ice carrots and shards of crystalized arugula to Lady Rattington (the local cute fuzzy thing), my guy and I sauntered off to the store in search of nosh. An hour later, we were home with fixings for the Best Dish Ever.
My friends, without further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce you to, literally, the best dish ever. What makes it so good? Let me count the ways!
- It comes together in maybe 30 minutes.
- It’s cheap.
- You can get all the ingredients anywhere at any time of year.
- There are a million substitutions you can make.
- The most important ingredients are ones you can keep on hand in the pantry
- It makes a ton or a little with about the same amount of effort
- It is delicious. It’s literally stuff to write home about. People taste this shit and facebook it before they get to the second bite.
This is not so much a recipe as a serving suggestion, but I’ll do the best I can to make it clear enough for you to reproduce with reasonable success after a few tries.
1 block Extra firm tofu, cubed
1 cup Dried shiitakes, soaked and sliced, or use fresh, or criminis, or whatever.
2 cups Greens- baby bok choy, soaked seaweed, kale, etc. I usually just go with one.
2 packs Noodles- the thick, vacuum-packed wheat noodles that stay inexplicably fresh outside of the fridge. They look like worms. Moreso when covered in saucy goodness.
1 tbsp Garlic chili sauce– careful, some brands have fish, etc. The measurement is a guide, adjust to taste
1 tbsp Tamari, or more at the end if things need more salt
1 tbsp Fermented tasty salty things- I usually use umeboshi, but fermented black beans work well
2 tbsp Mirin- preferably the real kind, can omit
1 tbsp Toasted sesame oil, plus more to drizzle over
2 tbsp Rice vinegar (use this to taste, be careful if using the seasoned variety cause it’ll throw off the balance of everything else)
Black pepper- I don’t know why, it just makes it for me.
Peppers, bean sprouts, green onions, cilantro and lime, hot peppers, sesame seeds, etc.
For this recipe to work, all you need to do is brown your mushrooms in a hot oiled pan, then add the tofu to brown lightly, then add the greens. Mix the sauce ingredients together and add with the greens, toss on a lid to steam it all for a minute or two, and then mix in a big bowl with your noodles (boil them first to loosen them up, or nuke them in a bowl of water). Easy peasy.