Crunchy cabbage and carrot salad bathed in a tangy Vietnamese–style dressing and topped with pan-fried, 10-minute marinated tofu. Quick, easy and naturally vegan.
by Kellie@foodtoglow > Hands up who loves Vietnamese food. Okay, all of you. Good, because I have a zinger of a meal salad recipe for you. It manages to be quick, easy, textural and full to the brim with zesty flavours.
Did I mention quick? 😉
Most of the time to get flavour from the culinary world’s blandest food – step forward tofu – you have to press it then marinate for ages. Yawn. Most of us come in the door knackered from work, root through the fridge and cobble together something vaguely healthy and edible for dinner. Marinating tofu doesn’t figure high on my priority list.
But what if you could infuse said bland but protein-heavy vegan staple food with everything that makes Vietnamese food so craveable in, oh, 10 minutes? Would tofu suddenly be back on the menu? Maybe even – gasp – tempeh?
Thanks to a gem of a post back in 2017 by the awesome Stockholm-based nutritionist Katie Trant, I have ditched the time-consuming pressing and marinating time and cut straight to the chase: infusing those plain old soy curd cubes with huge flavours.
Step forward sweet, salty, peppery and tangy. A lot of tangy.
The no-press tofu revelation is a game-changer for me, and it may be for you, too.
Three steps to the tastiest tofu ever
The basics of this quick-marinade tofu can apply to any flavours you wish. Go Spanish with smoked paprika, sherry vinegar, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper. Travel to India with turmeric, coriander, mustard oil, jaggery, lemon juice, salt and chilli. Whatever.
Here’s what you do:
1. Mix up your acid, oil, seasonings and spices and set aside.
2. Heat a little oil in a saute pan, add cubes of plain firm tofu and pan-fry over a medium-high flame for about five minutes, turning in the oil. Basically you are driving out some of the moisture and giving it a little colour.
3. Once the tofu is lightly golden in places turn down the heat and pour in the marinade. Flip the tofu to really coat it, then just let the pan and heat do the work. Stir the tofu occasionally to get it all evenly cooked. You should have perfectly cooked, sticky and blissfully delicious tofu in about five minutes.
That’s it! Now you can add your perfectly cooked and flavoured tofu to stir fries, noodle bowls, Buddha bowls, pasta, salads, etc. Make a double batch to use throughout the week in different ways. It can be eaten warm or cold. I sometimes cook it a little longer to get an awesome crouton texture.
This recipe is a Westerner’s spring interpretation of classic Vietnamese cabbage salad. I kind of just used what I had around when I fancied making this – British asparagus, a pointed cabbage, sugarsnap peas, sweet new carrots, basil leaves, chillies, peanuts and my garden’s first mint of the year. Feel free to add cooked rice noodles, cucumber, daikon, cilantro and whatever you like that will add texture and spring flavours.
So, yeah, I basically cobbled it together. Some things never change….
Vietnamese Tofu Salad
Crunchy cabbage and carrot salad bathed in a tangy Vietnamese–style dressing and topped with pan-fried, 10-minute marinated tofu. Quick, easy and naturally vegan. xx
1 tbsp neutral oil for frying (I use organic Scottish rapeseed oil)
2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce/tamari sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar (or honey) – more to taste
1/4 tsp garlic powder (regular garlic can burn and get bitter here)
1 small cabbage (any kind), cored, halved and very thinly sliced (by hand or on a mandoline)
2 medium carrots, topped and tailed, sliced, julienned or spiralised
Handful of sugar snap peas or mangetout/snowpeas, sliced on diagonal
6 spears of super fresh green asparagus, woody ends discarded, tips sliced vertically and rest cut into bite-sized pieces (to eat raw)
1/2 red chilli, sliced – optional
Fresh mint, basil, coriander/cilantro – any combination or singly
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce/tamari sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 chilli, finely minced – optional
To serve: salted /unsalted roasted peanuts and lime wedges
Optional: cucumber slices, beansprouts, cooked rice noodles, shredded lettuce
1. Whisk up the tofu marinade ingredients. Set aside.
2. Whisk up the dressing ingredients. Set aside.
2. Fry the tofu in hot oil, turning to colour. Pour in the marinade and toss to coat. Turn down the heat to low-medium and cook, turning occasionally, until the marinade is absorbed and the tofu is well-coloured and sticky – about five minutes. I use a silicone spatula for this.
3. Toss together the salad ingredients with the dressing. Lay over the tofu and add a small palmful of peanuts. Serve with a lime wedge and perhaps an iced coffee or cold beer.
Tip 1: you can make this ahead on the day by keeping dressing, salad and cooked tofu in separate containers until serving.
Tip 2: make more dressing than you need and use as a dipping sauce for spring rolls.
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