Creamy Tofu Noodles

FOR THE NOODLES:
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
12 ounces thick Chinese wheat noodles
1 (14-ounce) package firm tofu, broken into pieces
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus a few sprigs for serving
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Toasted white sesame seeds, for garnish

FOR THE TOPPING:
2 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar (black vinegar), or a combination of 4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar plus 2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon chile oil or chile crisp, such as Chiu Chow chile oil
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 (1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger

Prepare the noodles: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook according to package instructions until the noodles are just tender, about 6 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain well again.

As noodles cook, prepare the topping: Add vinegar, soy sauce, chile oil, scallion, ginger and 1 tablespoon water to a small bowl and stir to combine.

Place the tofu, garlic, sugar, five-spice and 3/4 teaspoon salt into a blender or food processor and blend, adding about 6 tablespoons of water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is completely smooth and creamy. (You may need up to 12 tablespoons of water, depending on your tofu.)

Place the noodles in a large bowl and pour the tofu sauce on top. Add the cilantro and sesame oil, and toss until coated.

To serve, divide the noodles among bowls. Top with the spicy soy-vinegar sauce, sesame seeds and cilantro sprigs.

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