I recently came back from Thailand into a steaming-hot British summer, and instantly missed the incredible array of perfect hot-weather salads for which Thailand is famous. I needed to scratch the itch, and what stayed with me most were the hot, salty, sweet and sour dressings and the multitude of textures in a single dish. In today’s recipe, I’ve used lots of soft and crunchy summer vegetables alongside robust glass noodles and a punchy, sweet lime sauce. The tamarind tofu is a bonus – and it works very well, too – but you could easily make this without it.
Tamarind tofu with noodles, herbs and pickles
Don’t be afraid of mung bean glass noodles; they are the most sympathetic of all the noodles for the home cook. Alongside the sushi ginger, they can be found at Chinese and south-east Asian supermarkets and online. Remember that not all vegetarian and vegan fish sauces are equal – Thai Taste makes a very good one – and feel free to sub in whichever greens you have already.
Prep 15 min
Cook 35 min
For the tofu
2 x 280g blocks firm tofu, cut into 1cm slices, and then into triangles
3 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp brown rice syrup
½ tsp fine sea salt
For the salad
150g courgette, cut with a julienne peeler
150g cucumber, cut with a julienne peeler
100g iceberg lettuce, shredded
25g pickled sushi ginger
30g mixed mint and Thai basil leaves
30g fried onions, shop bought or homemade
65g salted peanuts, crushed
100g dried mung bean noodles
For the dressing
1½ tbsp vegan fish sauce
1½ tbsp brown rice syrup
2-3 bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
1½ tbsp lime juice
¼ tsp salt
Pat dry the tofu with kitchen paper (so it doesn’t spit when fried) and put a fresh sheet of kitchen paper on a plate near the hob. Make up a glaze in a small bowl by whisking the tamarind, brown rice syrup and salt with two tablespoons of water, then put to one side.
Heat a layer of oil in a nonstick frying pan and, when it’s very hot, add half the tofu in a single layer. Fry for six to seven minutes, turning once halfway, until golden brown on both sides, then transfer to the paper-lined plate to drain, and repeat with the remaining tofu.
Turn down the heat and remove most of the oil from the pan – you don’t want more than a tablespoon left in – then pour in the tamarind glaze and return all the tofu to the pan. Cook for about three minutes, so the glaze bubbles over the tofu, and turn the pieces so they’re all coated and glossy. When there’s little glaze/moisture left in the pan, take off the heat and leave to cool.
Make up the dressing by combining the vegan fish sauce, brown rice syrup, chillies, lime and salt. Cook the noodles according to packet instructions, rinse under cold water, then drain really well.
Only assemble just before serving. Put all the salad ingredients except the fried onions, peanuts and noodles in a bowl. Add the cooked noodles and dressing, and toss (the easiest way to do this is with your hands, pulling the ingredients up from the bottom of the bowl). Toss through the tofu and half each of the peanuts and fried onions, then distribute across four plates. Top with the remaining peanuts and fried onions, and serve.