Like our neighboring countries in East Asia, Tofu is one of the most essential ingredients in Korean diet. Koreans eat it steamed, boiled, cooked in soup, lightly fried, braised or even raw. I too have eaten countless tofu in my lifetime, and it had been a kind of food I was so used to eating that it almost became too insignificant to have an opinion about. But things changed a little when tofu started gaining a reputation not only as a healthy food but also as a bland and tasteless food that gives almost no pleasure of eating.
It made me a little upset to be honest. Yes, tofu does not have a strong flavor on its own, but it definitely does not deserve such harsh critics. I’d like to think that many of them come from a misunderstanding or lack of knowledge of how to cook and eat Tofu. In Korean diet, Tofu is either served or cooked with other foods and ingredients with more distinctive flavors, because it works as a perfect carrier for them.
“Dubu-gimchi” meaning Tofu and Kimchi (often served with stir-fried pork) is quintessential Korean dish you could find in pretty much any restaurant menu. It is healthy and humble but also packs incredible amount of flavors. And it is a kind of dish that will change your mind if you think Tofu is just boring.
Today’s salad recipe is inspired by that popular Korean dish. And in order to add a little texture, color, and even more nutrition, I coated tofu with brown rice flour and ground turmeric. Asian pear is also a common ingredient we use in many Korean dishes. Not only does it add a subtle crunchiness, but its natural sweetness also creates a beautiful balance against salty Kimchi dressing.
This dish is wholesome, healthy and delicious, but most importantly, it is not a tasteless Tofu salad many people would associate with its name. I hope you won’t just take my word for it, and try it yourself.
- Serves: 2
- Prep and Cooking time: 1hr
– Turmeric coated Tofu
- 340g/12oz firm tofu, suitable for stir-frying
- 1 egg
- 34g/1.2oz brown rice flour
- 1 tsp – ground turmeric
- 1/4 tsp – salt
- 1/2 tsp – black pepper
- 1/1/2 – 2 tbsp – regular olive oil
– Kimchi dressing
- 1/2 cup – chopped kimchi
- 1 tbsp – juice from kimchi
- 1/2 tbsp – mirin
- 1/2 tbsp – pure sesame oil
- 1/2 tbsp – apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp – honey
- 1 Asian pear (about 500g/18oz)
- 40g/1.4oz of your favorite crunch greens
- 1 tsp – black sesame seeds
- a pinch of salt and pepper (optional)
Mix all ingredients for kimchi dressing and set aside.
Beat 1 egg and set aside.
Mix rice flour, ground turmeric, salt and pepper. Place it in a tray.
Cut tofu into cubes big enough to be a couple of bite size (about 3.5 x 5cm/ 1.4 x 2 inch).
Gently coat tofu cubes with beaten egg, then evenly with the mix dusting off any excess flour.
In a non-stick pan, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat.
Add tofu cubes, cook until all sides are golden and crispy. It should take somewhere between 1-3 minutes on each side. Add more oil gradually when needed.
Transfer cooked tofu onto a tray with kitchen towel to remove any excess oil.
Remove the core of pear, cut it into strips in any thickness you desire.
In a dry pan, lightly toast black sesame seeds (about 20-25 seconds) over medium-high heat.
Assemble the salad. Place greens on the bottom, add tofu, pear and kimchi dressing on top.
Taste all the elements of salad together, season with a pinch of salt and pepper if necessary.
Sprinkle toasted black sesame seeds to finish.
If you want to make it a more substantial meal, serve it with cooked brown rice and of course, more kimchi 😉