recipe: tofu salad

back from honolulu with just a little craving for hawaiian style....

there is another potluck lunch at the clinic--mrs.arguelles' birthday celebration--and i lack the desire to do anything more complicated than opening a can, so i'll prepare an old standby 'feed-a-crowd' recipe of tofu salad.

the first time i had this salad was in honolulu a few years ago; the original salad was comprised of giant handfuls of watercress, layered with tofu, tomatoes, and maui onion with a shoyu(soy sauce)-sesame dressing. i've had it and made it in various incarnations according to what was fresh or merely what was in the fridge and cupboard: with any sort of sprout, any sort of tofu, sometimes tinned fish (or even lomi salmon--yum!), various lettuces and greens. the dressings also varied, but basically have a soy sauce base.

today's salad layers will be items i found at the local japanese market on my way home last night: radish sprouts, cherry tomatoes, bean sprouts, canned salmon, spinach, and toasted white sesame seeds to thow over everything. i'm opting for a simple dressing of soy sauce, and toasted sesame seed oil.

generally, i stick to firm tofu cut into cubes because it soaks up the dressing nicely without diluting it too much, but they didn't have any at the store. i decided to use two types of tofu: a semi-soft tofu that is lightly grilled to hold it together, and a fried firm tofu, both cut into small chunks.

there are, per my normal mode of operation, no amounts listed, just add whatever amount sounds good. the only real advice i have is to drain or pat dry any or all ingredients!

you can layer the items in any order--i think traditionally the tofu is on the bottom to soak up the dressing, but i tend to start with the heavier greens, as watercress isn't always available to me. i start with a layer of spinach, torn into manageable pieces, then flake the salmon over that, and slice the teeny but potent and super-red cherry tomatoes they always seem to have available (like some sort of gojira v mothra nuclear mutant veg):

then i do a couple of white layers by mistake because i always forget about the sprouts. 'best moyashi' brand is seriously the best moyashi (bean sprouts)! they are sweet, tender, and never bitter, topped and tailed, and fat as little babies' arms. then the cubes of tofu:

finally i put the radish sprouts on top, sprinkly liberally with the toasted sesame seeds:

the dressing is simply made by dumping soy sauce and a few bonito flakes in a saucepan (sometimes i add a bit of sugar if the soy sauce is particularly sharp), bring to a boil quickly, then take off the heat. add a little bit of sesame oil, a little more peanut oil or some other neutral oil, and mix well. the tomatoes i use are often acidic enough that i don't add any more acid to the dressing, but i think i nice squirt of fresh lemon juice, calamansi, yuzu or even grapefruit juice wouldn't go amiss.

easier still is just buying your favourite asian-style dressing :-)

anyway, don't dress the salad until you are ready to serve it.

what i like best about this salad besides the ease of preparation, is the texture--cold and crunchy sprouts, soft and creamy tofu, bursting tomatoes against the tender spinach, all playing against the salty dressing, sweetness of the veg, and nuttiness of the sesame. and anyone who likes asian flavours likes this salad--even the keikis!