I love Asian salads. Most of them burst with bold, aromatic flavours yet they are always refreshing and light. This exotic Baiye Tofu & Coriander salad is one of my favourites, and go-to when I have guests over, or just as part of a midweek meal. It is very healthy and makes use of some of my favourite ingredients– coriander, sesame oil, and jellyfish.
Tossed and dressed, it tantalizes with the soft peppery flavours of coriander, nuttiness of sesame seeds, and the piquant tickle of rice vinegar. It also bursts with lovely textures–wood ear fungus and jellyfish are soft and wobbly yet crunchy, while baiye tofu has a firm, almost al dente bite of pasta, but a little more dense in texture.
One might call it a salad, but it is as much a chilled appetiser or light side dish. In a Chinese meal, there is no ‘salad’ in the same format as a western course-by-course dish, as everything is served at the same time communally. You could have this as part of a larger meal, or cook a batch for a light lunch on its own. Look at the baiye tofu as an alternative to noodles.
I call it ‘exotic’ because the main ingredients are really not that main stream. For those who have not eaten them before, woodear fungus and jellyfish are tasteless, but in Chinese cuisine, they are appreciated for their unique texture — wobbly and crunchy at the same time. For the faint hearted, rest assured, the flavours here are not challenging. Nutty and piquant against a neutral canvas that is the tofu, this can easily go down into your go-to party pieces as well.
Finally, a note on the ingredients (get ready for ugly but necessary product pictures):
Wood ear fungus: if you cannot get it fresh, get the small dried ones, and soak in tap water for 30 mins to swell up and rehydrate.
Ready-to-eat jellyfish are sold in packets like this, which should be fairly easy to buy.
Baiye tofu means hundred leaf tofu. It is quite dense, and comes in folded sheets; you’ll need to separate them before cutting into fine slices.
If you can get hold of the ingredients, this recipe is superbly easy to make. Culinary skills not required. The only trick is getting hold of these ingredients. They are easily available in Singapore, and possibly throughout Asia. But in other regions, you may have to get it from specialty Asian supermarkets. (Do tell me what your experience is with these ingredients. Are they hard to come by? I’m really interested to know!)
[Recipe title=”Baiye Tofu & Coriander Salad” Servings=”4″ Difficulty=’Easy”]
1 packet (approx 250g) baiye tofu, shredded and blanched for 2-3 minutes and drained
1 cup fresh wood ear fungus (or used dried woodear fungus, soaked to rehydrate, then washed and trimmed)
1 packet ready-to-eat jellyfish
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted in a dry pan until light brown
1 cup of coriander, plucked (Chinese celery is also a great alternative)
3 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp fish sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp chilli oil, optional
Separate each layer of baiye tofu, align them again and slice finely into long noodle-like strands
Blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes, and drain. Place it in a salad bowl.
Wash the wood ear fungus and trim away any hard bits. Cut into smaller slices if necessary, then blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and place it in the bowl with the baiye tofu.
Remove the jelly fish from its packet, and drain off excess water. If necessary, cut it into shorter lengths. Add to the salad bowl.
Mix all the dressing ingredients together. It should be a balanced, piquant-salty-tangy-aromatic flavour.
Add to the salad and toss well.
Finally place the coriander on top, and sprinkle generously with toasted sesame seeds.
Toss well and serve. You can serve it chilled or at room temperature.