Tuesday, October 4, 2011
One of the things I most look forward to come spring-time is the abundance of fresh herbs in the garden. Gone are the cold winter days that keep herbs lying dormant; with all this spring freshness comes new growth and I couldn’t be any happier! Of my favourite herbs; mint and coriander (cilantro) are two of the top. I love them added to fresh rice paper rolls or roughly torn and added to salads like today’s, along with tofu and slippery rice noodles.
Inspired by one of Kylie Kwong’s most popular dishes from her restaurant Bill Kwong, this recipe screams freshness in a way only Asian flavours can. Lightly pickled carrot and cucumber form the backbone of this salad, flavourwise. While Chinese 5-spiced pressed tofu and a chilli spiked black rice vinegar dressing adds dimension to this otherwise simple noodle salad. We now tolerate wheat in small amounts so regular soy-sauce doesn’t seem to be a problem for us. However, the store-bought 5-spiced tofu contains gluten (in the form of soy sauce) so if you have Coeliac disease or a sever gluten intolerance I’d suggest you use pressed (super firm) regular tofu and either panfry and add to the salad plain, or panfry before marinating in a mixture of wheat-free tamari, Chinese 5-spice and sesame oil. Either way, don't let that put you off trying this flavourful spring salad...
tofu, herb & rice noodle salad
As mentioned above, I used store-bought 5-spice pressed tofu as we can now tolerate small amounts of wheat. These contain soy sauce, so if you are strictly gluten-free you would be best to buy regular pressed tofu and lightly pan-fry it before marinating it in a mixture of wheat-free tamari, Chinese 5-spice and sesame oil. A trip to your local Asian grocery store will be in order to get your hands on some of these items and once again, if strictly gluten-free check all the labels, especially on the black rice vinegar as some contain wheat. If in doubt simply use regular white rice vinegar in the dressing instead.
serves 4 as an entree or 2 as a main
- 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into fine julienne
- 1 small Lebanese cucumber, thinly sliced on a mandolin or with a peeler
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup (white) rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup unrefined raw sugar
- 220g packet 5-spiced pressed tofu* see head-notes, finely sliced
- 100g thin dried rice noodles
- 1 spring onion, finely sliced
- 1/4 cup coriander (cilantro) leaves
- 1/2 cup basil leaves
- 1/2 cup mint leaves
- 1 cup finely shredded cabbage
- 2 teaspoons lightly toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or wheat-free tamari
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon black rice vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon chilli oil
Place carrot and cucumber in separate bowls and divide the salt evenly between the two. Using your hands, massage the salt in to thoroughly distribute. Set aside for 1 hour.
Meanwhile place the rice vinegar and raw sugar into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, reduce and simmer for 8-10 minutes until reduced and syrupy. Cool. Drain the carrot and cucumber, gently squeezing any excess moisture out of them with your hands. Place into the cooled syrup and set aside to "pickle".
Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the rice noodles for 2 minutes or until just tender. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop them cooking further.
To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.
In a large bowl combine the pickled vegetables, tofu and rice noodles with all the rest of the salad ingredients except for the sesame seeds, and toss well to combine. Spoon the dressing over the salad and serve sprinkled with sesame seeds (yes I forgot mine when I took these photos!).
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