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I never eat enough fresh salad food in winter – the weather just doesn’t do much to encourage you to eat anything that is not pie, or soup, or baked goodness. This salad is spicy, flavourful, and filling enough to pass for a winter dish though, and it will still remind you of those gorgeous summer afternoons…

There’s an awesome cafe in Wollongong called Quay Canteen that does lots of Vietnamese street food inspired dishes, heavy on vegan and gluten free options, and always fresh and delicious. Eating there has made me fall back in love with red cabbage, a salad vegetable that had fallen off my roster for awhile. It’s easily available at the farmers markets this time of year, so I decided to have a go at creating a noodle salad inspired by the delicious Quay Canteen menu.

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Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Smoked Tofu
Serves 2

1 ‘cake’ vermicelli noodles*
1/4 block smoked tofu (I used Earnest Bean brand)
1 carrot, grated
1 packed cup shredded purple cabbage
2 shallots
1/3 cup chopped coriander
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 red chilli

For the dressing:
Fresh ginger – about a thumb sized piece
Fresh turmeric root – about a thumb sized piece
Gluten free soy sauce/tamari
Sesame oil

*The packets of noodles come with 4-5 ‘cakes’ of noodles. One should be enough for this recipe.

1. Cook vermicelli noodles in boiling water. They cook quickly, and will only take a minute. Once they are cooked, drain and leave to sit in a colander to allow excess moisture to continue to drain.
2. Shred cabbage, grate carrot, chop chilli, slice shallots, chop coriander, and place in a large bowl
3. Heat a cast iron or other heavy based pan, and toast sesame seeds, stirring frequently, until they are browned. Once browned and toasty, add to the shredded vegetables.
4. Slice tofu into cubes, add some oil to the pan you just toasted the sesame seeds in, and sauce til browned. Remove from pan and press in a paper towel to remove any excess oil.
5. Make the dressing – grate ginger and turmeric on a fine grater like a Microplane and place in a clean jar. Add about 2tbsp tamari or gluten free soy, and a splash of sesame oil. Shake to combine, and set aside.
6. Check the noodles for moisture, and squeeze in the colander to dry them out a bit if necessary. You don’t want them to be too wet, or the salad will be soggy.
7. Add the cooked noodles and tofu to the shredded vegetables, and pour over dressing. Stir to combine.

This is super good if you eat it straight after making it, but the flavours get better as it sits, and it is delicious served at room temperature so you could easily make this ahead.

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