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Napa Cabbage Stir Fry with Salt and Pepper Tofu

Phrases like “cabbage stir fry” and “salt and pepper tofu” light my fire, and I’m not afraid to admit it. So does the fierce and hopeful display of democracy that so many of us took part in on Saturday. 

Napa Cabbage Stir Fry with Salt and Pepper Tofu | Umami Girl

Saturday I marched.

I marched alongside more than 6,000 people in Asbury Park, N.J. Among friends, neighbors and colleagues. Women, children, men, everyone. For those few hours and the ensuing ones, scrolling through photos and videos and aerial footage of more than three million people across the country (and I don’t know how many more worldwide), it really felt like everyone.

Because technology is amazing, I shared bits of my experience online as it occurred, and I was able to follow along with bits of friends’ and strangers’ experiences in New York, Washington D.C., Warsaw, London, Russia, Singapore, Mozambique, and many more.

Here’s what I heard people expressing in Asbury Park and elsewhere:

Love and respect for each other and for our country.

Eagerness to speak out and real willingness to work to protect each other.

Hope. Determination. Possibility.

Insistence on forward motion.

So much brainpower, and some epic wordplay that made me proud to be human. 

Napa Cabbage Stir Fry with Salt and Pepper Tofu | Umami GirlHere’s what I did NOT hear people expressing:

Hate. Vitriol. Bitterness. Whininess. Temper tantrums. Disrespect for other regular Americans with different points of view.

There just wasn’t any of it. I looked for it, actually. I made an attempt to test the hypotheses (presented, though they were, as facts) made by a handful people I’ve interacted with in the past few days — none of whom attended a march — who felt that’s what would occur or had occurred.

I couldn’t find it.

Napa Cabbage Stir Fry with Salt and Pepper Tofu | Umami Girl

Right now I’m using this space that I’ve built and tended for more than eight years to let you know about my own experience in my own words. These are the kinds of accounts that I’ll be seeking out — and trying to really listen to, quietly and with full attention — from as wide a variety of people as possible in the days and years to come.

This past week I spent hours seeking out those stories, and I learned a lot. I heard accounts from women of color who skipped the march because they didn’t feel it would reflect their experience or prioritize their most important goals, and some from women of color who felt similarly but attended anyway. I heard from white women with conservative social values who felt the march effectively left them out without admitting it. I read articles and listened to the voices of Trump voters from parts of the country where I’ve never been and may never go. As always, I listened to a helluvalot of NPR, even though right now it doesn’t bring the same joy it once did. (Sometimes I feel a little like this guy when listening to WNYC, whereas I used to feel like this guy.) I plan to continue doing all of this as much as possible, and while I won’t bombard you with shoulds, I do recommend you try it.

Napa Cabbage Stir Fry with Salt and Pepper Tofu | Umami GirlI’m also trying to learn from experienced activists, because I’m not one. I’m slurping up the wealth of information online, including this and this, about how to take small steps on a regular basis to chip away at change. I’m thinking of taking a page from my work life and starting a small accountability group to check in once a month or so and talk about what we’ve accomplished. We shall see.

To fuel the fire (or hey, just to light my fire, because my fire is apparently lit by nerdy vegan food), here’s a delicious and umami-filled weeknight dinner: a Napa cabbage stir fry with crispy salt and pepper tofu, mushrooms and red bell peppers. Serve it by itself to make dinner for two, or atop some brown rice or other grain of your choice to make a light meal for four.

Talk to you soon.

Carolyn xx

Napa Cabbage Stir Fry with Salt and Pepper Tofu

Preparation 00:05 Cook Time 00:15 Total Time 0:20
Serves 2 to 4 (see headnote)     adjust servings

A quick, healthy and light weeknight dinner that serves 2 on its own or 4 with some short-grain brown rice, quinoa or other grain alongside it.


  • 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons safflower or other neutral oil, divided
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces sliced cremini (baby bella) mushrooms
  • 1 pound napa cabbage, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar
  • Hot chili toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro


Dry tofu well between several layers of paper towels. Cut into approximate 1/2-inch cubes and dry again. Place in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with cornstarch, salt and pepper. Toss gently to coat evenly.

Warm 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Add tofu in a single layer and cook until golden brown on the bottom, then stir once in a while and continue cooking until most sides are golden. This will take about 10 minutes total. Slide tofu out onto a plate.

In the same pan, heat the remaining tablespoon oil. Add bell pepper and mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, stirring only occasionally, until mushrooms have browned in spots and peppers are slightly tender. Add cabbage, tamari and vinegar and cook, stirring, until cabbage is tender and reduced in volume by at least half, which will take only a couple of minutes.

There will be some tasty liquid at the bottom of the pan. Depending on your sauce preferences, you can remove the vegetables from the skillet with tongs or a strainer to avoid the liquid, go with the flow and serve it as-is, or remove the vegetables and then simmer the liquid down into a thicker sauce. (The cornstarch from the tofu will aid this process.)

Place vegetables on serving plates (alongside rice or other grains if you like) and top with reserved tofu. Sprinkle with chili sesame oil and cilantro as well as sauce if you like. Serve immediately.


Recipe Notes

2 reviews


Hi there, I'm Carolyn, and I'm delighted you're here. I'm a NYC-area food, travel, yoga, coffee, wine, running, music making and book obsessive with a great family and a love for sharing it all with you. Grab a drink and come on in. Learn more.

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