Wednesday, January 16, 2013

tofu, herb + mango salad with dijon mustard dressing recipe

mango, tofu + herb salad with dijon mustard dressing

A few weeks back we were over at my mother-in-laws house when Si's cuzzy Luke Nguyen came on telly. He's not really his cousin but like so many other South Vietnamese we share the same surname as him (I'm actually a Nguyen by marriage, but I still go by my maiden name most of the time). I've always wondered why every second family in Vietnam is a Nguyen, I mean Smith is a pretty common surname in the western world but not every second family is a Smith eh! So I got talking to my brother in law about this and it turns out no one really knows if they are Nguyen's for sure. Back in the day everyone wanted to be part of the Nguyen dynasty so many families changed their last names! Classic. I suppose that's one way to do it and a damn site easier than trying to marry into royalty.

mango, tofu + herb salad with dijon mustard dressing

The week before Si and I were watching one of the shows in Greater Mekong where Luke was back in Vietnam sitting on a boat cooking with his parents and talking about when they fled the war. The stories I have heard of that time (someone could seriously make a movie about Si's families life) and about the multiple attempted escapes via boat only to be caught and chucked in jail, have moved me so much that I find myself instantly drawn in whenever I hear the stories of others. I can't even begin to tell you how it felt when Si and I travelled to Vietnam and stood on the exact same spot where they boarded the boat his father made and farewelled their country, old remnants of boats still scattered around the place. 

Coming from safe little New Zealand I can't even begin to understand the pain and suffering that the Vietnamese people went through, but that doesn't stop the lump from forming in my throat when I see the older generation talking about their stories. Watching Luke's parents get all choked up nearly made me cry. The salad they were making however, now that one made me smile! Luke was preparing a salad of just ripe mangoes, loads of herbs and pan-fried prawns all bound together with what he called his 'French influenced' dressing. Yum. Naturally I just had to make my own version...

mango, tofu + herb salad with dijon mustard dressing

tofu, herb + mango salad with dijon mustard dressing
More often than not most South East Asian salads use unripe green mangoes, but Luke used just ripe ones to add a touch of sweetness. You want them to be only just past the green stage, where the colour changes to a light orange. Any riper than that and they are too soft to slice thinly. Knowing that many of my NZ readers won't have access to just-ripe mangoes I reckon thinly sliced firm white nectarines would be a lovely substitute. 
Serves 4 as a side

300g firm tofu, sliced into 1cm slices
1 asian shallot (or use 1 small red onion), peeled and finely sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
1-2 tablespoons rice bran or olive oil

2 just ripe mangoes, peeled, stones removed and flesh finely sliced
1 large handful snowpeas, strings removed and finely shredded
a large handful fresh mint leaves, roughly torn
small handful coriander (cilantro) leaves, roughly torn

3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons rice bran oil (or other neutral vegetable oil) 
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat and panfry tofu slices until golden on both sides. Season with a little sea salt and black pepper. Remove from the pan and set side on a plate to cool slightly. Return pan to heat and add about 1 tablespoon more of oil, add shallots and garlic and stir-fry until golden and crispy. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain off excess oil. Slice tofu into thin strips.

Place sliced mango, snowpeas, herbs and tofu into a bowl. Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Drizzle dressing over salad and scatter with crispy shallots/garlic just before serving.

Inspired by a Luke Nguyen recipe seen on Greater Mekong.

18 comments:

  1. Very healthy salad! I love the mango for some sweetness :)

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing this great recipe. I have to try this one. Looks healthy :) hope you can visit my delicious Filipino food blog. I'm still building my filipino food blog though... Thanks!

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  3. 1. i am slightly ashamed to say that i had a vague notion that vietnam used to be a monarch. i just spent 30 minutes reading about the Nguyen dynasty. when i think of monarchies, i think of the european monarchs and it does easily translate to asia, tho i am well aware of thailand's ruling family etc. it just never connected for some reason.

    2. i know what you mean about that feeling of standing on the beach with bits of wood strewn on the shore. i don't remember our escape, but i have heard many many stories of it.

    3. i really did believe you when you said that Luke Nguyen was your cousin! i should also claim some kind of relation to him :)

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    1. 1. to be honest I had to do a little reading up about the Nguyen dynasty too :-)

      2. xx

      3. :-)

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  4. HA! I just got the name...Darling lemon thyme...Darling Clementine... (sigh...) cheers for this delicious looking uncook...here in Northern Tas it's warming up this week to a bruising 30...in Tasmania's defence, 30C here is like 40C on the mainland and as an ex West Aussie I know what hot is...I just seem to have misplaced it somewhere in my comfort zone of late so I might just be uncooking this scrumptious salad for my nearest and dearest and even the dogs may beg for it from afar because they aint gonna get any!

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    Replies
    1. Haha yes my daughter used to get mixed up with that line and call me her darling lemon thyme... the name stuck :-)

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  5. What a moving post, thanks for sharing Emma. I feel so lucky to live in NZ but would love to have the mangos you have in Oz so I could make this gorgeous salad. Maybe I try it with peaches from our tree :)

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  6. I travelled through Cambodia and Vietnam not long ago and the stories from Cambodia during the Pol Pot era are absolutely heart wrenching. They are such a gentle people and yet it was one of their own who did this to them. Vietnam is another nation that suffered terribly but for different reasons. It must be lovely to have that connection with Vietnam and to be able to learn first hand about their cuisine.

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    1. The horrors of what happened in Cambodia I will never forget either. We travelled all through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos a few years before we had Ada. Such a magical place and beautiful people, but filled with so many sad stories.

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  7. Ah, Luke Nguyen is one of my food heroes and I was fortunate enough to dine at Red Lantern again just recently. I loved seeing his parents on that episode and hearing their stories. My own parents fled Hungary many years ago too. I am about to post my version of this recipe soon too. Love it!

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  8. Beautiful looking recipe. I just stumbled onto your lovely blog from google and have recently had to completely cut out all dairy and gluten products from my diet and have been seriously struggling to find a good website that has gluten AND dairy free recipes from someone in a similar situation.. so have been loving all your recipes! Thank you!

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  9. That is one deliciously simple recipe! I am thinking of replacing the tofu with smoked salmon - my newly discovered superfood. Do you think that would work? Thanks for the inspiration :-)

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    1. I'm sure smoked salmon would be lovely in this salad xx

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  10. Wow this is so refreshing salad! Added it quickly to my weekly menu. :D Got my eye on your next posts.

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  11. This looks so delicious, I'm craving these kind of clean, bright flavours in the middle of winter. Hope your books is going well :)

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Thanks so much for stopping by, arohanui xx Emm

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