Messy Jessie and the Sweet ‘n’ Sour Noodle

When I was a wee tot, I loved to chow down on spaghetti with tomato sauce. The more sauce and Kraft sprinkle cheese, the better. There’s a picture of me from when I was about three or four, sitting in front of an empty plate, with tomato sauce up to my elbows and smeared all over my hair. There is nary a fork in sight.

(Incidentally, my nickname in elementary school was the obvious “Messy Jessie“. Not because I was actually messy (in fact, I was quite neat as a kid, save for the tomato sauce incident), but because kids love rhymes. Bonus points if the rhyme is embarrassing in some way. Actually, I’m lucky that I got away with just “Messy”. I feel bad for little [removed for delicacy].)

I still love spaghetti with tomato sauce (the Kraft sprinkle cheese has been replaced by classier cheeses), but sometimes a heavy sauce just won’t do. That’s where this light sweet ‘n’ sour noodles dish comes in.

Look at all these colorful, nutrient-packed, almost-excessive-but-not-quite veggies, pre-mixing:

Marinating tofu:

The final result:

Best enjoyed with wine and intellectual conversation about the relative merits of different brands of sprinkle cheese, as well as exploring the psychological implications of embarrassing childhood nicknames.

Sweet ‘n’ Sour Noodles with Cashews & Crispy Tofu

  Prep Time: 15 minutes

  Cook Time: 20 minutes

  Keywords: stir-fry entree side vegetarian vegan pasta tofu

Ingredients (4 servings)

Sweet ‘n’ Sour Noodles

  • 1 oz dried shittake mushrooms (or you can use 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons honey (can substitute a vegan sweetener)
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar or wine vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 8 oz uncooked buckwheat noodles (soba) (or whole grain fetticini)
  • 3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, medium, cut into 1.5 inch long sticks
  • 2 scallions, cut into thin strips
  • 10 radishes, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup cashews, chopped
  • crushed red pepper

Crispy Tofu

  • 1 16-oz. package tofu, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup light-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar or wine vinegar


If using dried shittakes: at least two hours ahead, place shittakes in a medium bowl and pour in two cups boiling water to rehydrate them. Cover and let stand. After two hours, drain shittakes, squeeze out excess water and slice into thin strips. Set aside.

One hour ahead, mix together 1/4 cup light sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons vinegar in a shallow container. Add tofu and gently stir to coat. Cover and let sit for one hour. Remove tofu from container and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes per side.

While tofu is baking, mix honey, remaining vinegar, and remaining soy sauce in a medium bowl until honey dissolves. Set aside. Bring large pot of water to a bowl and cook noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles and add them to the bowl with the honey mixture. Add remaining sesame oil and garlic and mix with a fork or tongs until noodles are coated.

Stir in sliced shittakes and let noodles cool to room temperature. Add carrots, scallions, and radishes and toss again until well combined. Top with cashews and red pepper flakes to taste and serve.

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Q: C’mon, out with it: what was your childhood nickname?


  1. I’m not sure that kids would be aware of the wildly inappropriate rhyme for Mingus. If they were, I’d be impressed.

    1. The rhyme I was thinking of isn’t inappropriate, but considering how things are nowadays, perhaps I’d better remove it 😉 Thanks for the heads up, Samantha!

      1. LOL! I can only think of that one rhyme. Man, my mind is in the gutter.

  2. I didn’t have one 🙁 Boring huh? Maybe I’ll have to come up with my own though. Your pasta looks so very good. Ryan loves a good sweet and sour dish, so I’ll have to make this for him tomorrow night. He and I will be thrilled. Thank you for sharing, my friend, and for making my day a bit more happy and delicious. I hope you are having a wonderful week!

  3. Ummm…Lucy Goosy but thankfully it was rarely used. I was not a fan 😉

    I’m not usually much of a noodle enthusiast (might have something to do with those heavy sauces, eek!)but this looks like a delicious and wholesome dish, yummy!

    “Messy Jessie” makes you sound adventurous and fearless 🙂 Especially in the kitchen 😉

    1. That’s a good way to look at it, Lucy 😉

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