New Favorite Noodles

August 4, 2010

Several months ago, I had lunch with a friend at a relatively new local restaurant called Nettletown.  It has been getting a lot of buzz lately and I took precious babysitting time to go check it out.  I am not a restaurant reviewer but I can tell you that within a very modest space, very exciting über-local and sustainable food is happening.  If you want more information, Tea wrote a great post about Nettletown here.

From the specials list, I chose a dish that turned out to be one of the most interesting and delicious dishes I have eaten in a long time.  I don’t remember everything exactly but I know for sure that my shallow but well-filled bowl contained fresh rice noodles, very firm and perfectly flavored tofu, sea beans, mizuna, and shiitake mushrooms.  There may or may not have been other delicacies in there.  I was pretty hungry that day and I still only made it through about half of my dish.  I dislike leftovers but I loved my noodles so much that I took my unfinished portion home with me and ate them later that night.

Since then, the dish has haunted me.  I have been back to Nettletown twice and have been dismayed to find it absent from the specials menu.  So, I have attempted to re-create the dish.  Three times.  The first two times I was so hungry and distracted by the time the dish was done that I didn’t have the energy or patience to take a photo.  (Fellow food bloggers, can I get an amen?)  I just figured I would make it again.  These are flavors and ingredients I love so why not use “no photo” as an excuse to repeat?  Each time I refined the dish a little more.  Some things stayed constant, others changed.  All three times I hoped to use fresh rice noodles and was never able to make that happen in spite of looking for them at my local Asian market.

So what is going on here?  First I made a marinade/sauce.  I cut the tofu into pieces, put them in a small baking pan, and poured about half the marinade over top.  I sautéed up some shiitake mushrooms until they started to brown and added just a touch of soy sauce at the end.  I rinsed sea beans, pre-cooked and then rinsed the rice noodles, and I allowed the tofu to bake long enough to absorb the marinade and develop a bit of a crust.  I assembled the whole dish together, poured the remaining sauce over top, and quickly seared bok choy halves to put on top.

This is not exactly the dish I had at Nettletown.  I’m still going to keep tweaking it and I am going on a fresh rice noodle quest.  But I’m getting close.

One Year Ago:  Zesty Tofu Wraps

Rice Noodles with Marinated Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms

Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

I tried both the angel hair thickness rice noodles and the more fettucine thickness and preferred the latter.

For the marinade:
2 inch pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 garlic clove, minced
2 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves removed, minced
6 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1½ tbsp. mirin
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 tbsp. water
½-1 tsp. red pepper flakes

12 ounces extra-firm tofu, blotted dry and cut into 1-inch cubes
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed and cut into thick slices
4 baby bok choy, sliced in half
Large handful of sea beans, rinsed and drained
Mizuna leaves (you can substitute spinach)
1 pound rice noodles

To make the marinade/sauce, mix together all the ingredients in a medium size bowl.  Taste for flavor balance and add more soy, honey, or lime juice to taste.  Put the tofu in a shallow baking dish (an 8×8-inch pan is perfect) and pour about 1/3 of the marinade over top.  Allow the tofu to sit for at least half an hour, turning the pieces periodically.  You can also refrigerate the pan, covered, for up to one day.  Reserve the rest of the marinade.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Place the baking pan in the oven and bake until the marinade is absorbed and the tofu is developing a bit of outer crunch, 30 to 40 minutes.  Turn the tofu once during baking.  Set aside.

Heat a medium non-stick pan over medium heat.  Add just a bit of canola oil and then the mushrooms.  Allow to cook with out turning too much so that they get a bit browned.  Once they are soft and have released all of their liquid, add about a tablespoon of soy sauce.  Stir until the soy sauce is absorbed and set the mushrooms aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add the rice noodles and cook until just tender.  Check the package for how long they need to cook and be sure to taste them to make sure they are done.  Drain and immediately rinse them with cold water until they are cool.

Heat a bit more oil in the same skillet in which you cooked the mushrooms.  Add the bok choy halves and cook just until softened a bit, about 3 minutes.

To assemble the bowls, place a small handful of mizuna at the bottom of a wide shallow bowl.  Top with ¼ of the noodles.  Pour ¼ of the marinade/sauce over the noodles.  Top with some tofu, sea  beans, mushrooms, and a couple bok choy halves.


  1. Oh my! That looks so amazing!

    Comment by Kate — August 4, 2010 @ 2:12 am

  2. Don’t you just hate it when you eat something that positively HAUNTS you. But don’t you kind of love it as well?

    If you’ve remade this four times in the past few days, it must be something seriously worth making!

    Comment by Joanne — August 4, 2010 @ 3:45 am

  3. great job,looks perfect!

    Comment by alison — August 4, 2010 @ 5:58 am

  4. Amen! Done that once or twice (been too tired to take a pic)…

    This looks so gorgeous – I’ve never heard of sea beans though!

    Comment by Koek! — August 4, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

  5. Sounds fantastic. You’ve just sparked a serious craving for bok choy. Also, I have been wanting to try sea beans, seems like the perfect dish for them.

    Comment by Sarah S. — August 4, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

  6. I love noodle dishes like this! I’ll have to try Nettletown next time I’m visiting Seattle.

    Comment by kickpleat — August 4, 2010 @ 5:54 pm

  7. I get so much bok choy from the farm, that I am bookmarking this for the fall. Awesome flavors!

    Comment by fresh365 — August 4, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

  8. That looks amazing. The little cubes of tofu look so perfect!

    Comment by Ashley — August 4, 2010 @ 9:30 pm

  9. I was talking a restaurant, closed now, where I used really enjoy the noodle bowls. I’ve been craving a good noodle bowl. I want to go and make this right now, and I bet I don’t find fresh rice noodles either.

    Comment by lisaiscooking — August 4, 2010 @ 10:18 pm

  10. I was lucky enough to take some photos for Nettletown last month, and got to binge on a lot of the food I shot! Their noodle dishes have long been a favorite of mine, even before that shoot.

    This looks like a really close representation of their dishes, nice job! Love the seabeans in there.

    Comment by matt — August 5, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

  11. I’m going to make this tomorrow night. It was so good!

    Comment by Julie — August 9, 2010 @ 4:01 am

  12. Mmmm. With the cold and dreary summer we’ve been having in San Francisco, I seem to want carb-ful noodles all the time. These look fabulous!

    Comment by Kasey — August 9, 2010 @ 11:43 pm

  13. I made this last night and the tofu was to die for! I marinated it for a day and even though I couldn’t get the lemongrass for it this week, the sauce was amazing. I can’t wait to try more versions of tofu done this way. Thanks Dana!

    Comment by Luann — January 19, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

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