The noodle salad
Spring vegetable bun cha with tofu and soy-pickled cabbage
Prep 20 min
Cook 35 min
For the soy-pickled cabbage
150g red cabbage, finely shredded
1 tbsp rapeseed oil 2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into paper-thin slices
1 bird’s eye chilli, cut into paperthin slices
100ml soy sauce 2 tbsp lime juice 2½ tbsp caster sugar 1 tbsp whitewine vinegar
For the tofu 400g extra-firm tofu Rapeseed oil
Salt and pepper
For the spring veg and noodles
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 red bird’s eye chilli, finely chopped 1.5cm piece ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced 14 spring onions, thinly sliced
150g frozen petit pois, defrosted 150g frozen broad beans, defrosted
½ tsp salt 200g watercress leaves, chopped 250g rice vermicelli noodles
1 handful salted peanuts, smashed
1 handful coriander leaves, chopped
1 handful mint leaves A good bun cha is all about the delicious nuoc cham dressing, but the herb and peanut garnish also adds a lot to the overall magic, so don’t leave that out if you can help it.
Put the cabbage in a medium-size heatproof bowl. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan over a low heat and, when hot, add the garlic and chilli. Stir-fry for a minute, then add the soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, vinegar and eight tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil, take off the heat and pour over the cabbage.
Lightly press the tofu block between your palms to extract as much water as possible, then cut into 12 or so 5mm-thick slices. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a nonstick frying pan on a medium heat, then lay in the tofu slices (in batches, if need be), season the tops with a big pinch of salt and pepper, and leave to fry undisturbed for four to six minutes, until a crust starts to form. Turn the tofu, season again and fry until crisp and golden on the flip side, too (add more oil, if need be). Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen towel.
In the same frying pan, heat a few tablespoons of oil on a high heat, then fry the onion hard for five minutes, so the edges brown but it’s still juicy. Add the chilli, ginger, garlic and spring onions (reserve a handful to decorate), and fry for six minutes, until soft. Add the petits pois, beans and salt, stir-fry for two minutes, then add the watercress. Briefly mix to wilt, then turn off the heat.
Boil the kettle, soak the noodles according to the packet instructions, then drain, refresh and drain again.
Divide the noodles, tofu and veg between four bowls. Put a little cabbage in each bowl, then pour its pickling liquid over the top. Garnish with smashed peanuts, herbs and the reserved spring onions, and serve.