Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bánh Mì Salad with Marinated Tofu and Japanese Ginger-Carrot-Miso Dressing


This is a really fun salad for this springtime weather we've been getting in Chicago (finally).  It began as a quest to satisfy my craving for that delicious ginger-carrot-miso dressing that used to be typically served in Japanese restaurants (but less so now, no?).   But, then, as I built the salad up with accoutrements, it evolved into sort of a bánh mì-inspired salad with many Southeast Asian flavors like pickled cucumbers, cilantro, and peanuts.  It certainly makes for a colorful presentation, so I brought it along for Mother's Day brunch.  

There are a bunch of individual components to the salad that are good recipes to have in-and-of themselves, such as the marinated tofu.  The same marinade could easily be applied to chicken if you wanted a meatier substitution.  The pickled cucumbers make for a very healthy snack to have around the house on hot summer days, and the dressing is ideal if you're being careful about your diet.  I don't think I've ever made a healthier salad dressing recipe that was packed so full of flavor.  Now that I think about it, if I had realized sooner that this was evolving into a bánh mì salad I would have added just a little bit of lime juice to the dressing recipe (now that limes are back in stock!).

If you happen to have any leftovers when all is said and done, it does actually make for a great sandwich for lunch the next day.  Just buy a baguette and pile on the tofu, dressing, and veggies (and maybe some sliced jalapeno) and... bánh mì!

Makes four servings.  

Ingredients Marinated Tofu:
  • 1 package (14 oz.) extra firm tofu
  • 2 tbsp. dark molasses
  • 2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce (gluten-free)
  • 1 tbsp. thai chili paste (or any thick chili paste)
  • 1 tbsp. miso paste
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
Ingredients for Pickled Cucumbers:
  • 1 english cucumber, sliced thin
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. chili sauce (like sriracha)
 Ingredients for Ginger-Carrot-Miso Dressing:
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 inches ginger root, peeled
  • 1/4 small sweet yellow onion 
  • 1 tbsp. miso paste
  • 1 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce (gluten-free)
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. vegetable or canola oil
  • pinch of salt
Other Salad Ingredients:
  • Salad greens of your choice
  • Sliced radish
  • Cooked edamame beans
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Crushed peanuts

Step One: Pickle the cucumbers.  In a large bowl whisk together the sesame oil, vinegars, honey, and chili sauce.  Add the thinly sliced cucumbers and let sit at least 30 minutes, but the longer the better.
Step Two: Marinate and cook the tofu.  The tofu will first need to be sliced into slabs and drained between a few sheets of paper towel before marinating.  You can press the slabs between the paper towel gently to speed this up, but you want the tofu as dry as possible.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl mix together the molasses, soy sauce, chili paste, miso paste, and sesame oil.  When the tofu is ready, cube up the slabs and add to the marinate.  Toss the cubes gently by hand to coat.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  When ready, brown in a pan for 10-15 minutes, flipping until all sides are seared. Add the sesame seeds, and cool completely before assembling the salad.
Step Three: Make the dressing.  In a food processor or blender, puree the carrots, ginger, and onion together as much as possible.  Then, add the miso, soy sauce, oils, and a pinch of salt.  Continue to puree until as smooth as possible.  If you want to thin out the dressing, add a bit more oil.
Step Four: Prep the salad.  While the tofu cooks and the cucumbers continue to pickle, cook your edamame, slice your radishes, chop the cilantro, and prepare your salad greens.  You can toss all these ingredients together.  As soon as the tofu is cool add it, with the some drained cucumbers, to the salad.  Top with a spoonful of dressing and serve.


  1. Was searching for tofu recipes and thanks to Google discovered your blog. I just made the tofu part, but intend to make the rest. Super yummy tofu, thanks.

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