Korean-Style Daikon and Cucumber Salad with Braised Red Tofu
By Heidi Allison
An homage to the bold flavors of Korean cuisine, this vegan meal comes together fast and will be your new go-to for mixing up flavors and getting out of a culinary rut.
The fusion-style salad is a refreshing mix of cool and crunch with matchstick-cut light green Persian cucumbers, orange carrots and white daikon—the Asian radish looks like a plump carrot on steroids. Daikon, which also goes by the monikers Asian winter radish, Japanese radish and Chinese radish, has a mild peppery taste that pairs well with the cool cucumbers and sweet carrots. Recent research links this nutritional powerhouse to having antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antivirus properties. It also contains digestive enzymes, amylase and protease, which assist in the digestion of carbohydrates and proteins—another digestive enzyme aids in the breakdown of fats. The caveat for reaping its health benefits; cut the radish shortly before eating since 50 percent of its enzymes are lost within thirty minutes. If you have problems with thyroid function, cook and chill this raw veggie, or switch it out and up the Romaine lettuce instead.
While the salad is the supporting side, the red braised tofu is the star of the meal. Bland white tofu takes on a luscious ruby red color and sweet-spicy-garlicky flavor from the Korean sauté sauce. You can choose the heat level in the finished dish by using either hot, medium or mild gochujang (I prefer hot). For an artistic platescape, cut the tofu into circles or rectangles with a biscuit cutter. You’ll get the best results using firm organic tofu—the texture in the finished dish softens to a creamy texture after braising.
4 Persian cucumbers
1 small daikon radish, peeled
1 carrot, peeled
2 green onions, green parts only, thinly sliced
1 organic heart of romaine lettuce
¼ head of green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Using a mandolin or Japanese benriner, cut the carrots, cucumbers and daikon radish into ¼ -inch matchsticks and place them into a large salad bowl.
Cut the romaine lettuce into 1/3-inch slices and place over the cucumber mixture.
Sprinkle green cabbage over lettuce and toss all ingredients to combine.
Place salad on a plate and drizzle dressing over greens and top with cilantro and sesame seeds.
Sambal Mayo Salad Dressing:
2 tablespoons mayo
2 tablespoons Sambal Oelek chili paste
1 teaspoon lime juice
Place mayo, lime juice and chili sauce in a small bowl and mix with a fork till combined.
Ingredients for tofu sauté sauce:
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons Korean red chili paste (gochujang)
3 tablespoons ketchup
1½ teaspoons minced garlic, about 3 large cloves
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil
1½ teaspoons peeled and grated ginger, about 1.5-inch knob
1 kiwi, peeled and smashed
½ teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons canola or rice bran oil for frying and braising
Place all the ingredients into a small bowl and mix until combined. Cover and refrigerate till ready to use.
Remove tofu from the packaging and rinse with water. Place tofu on 2 layers of paper towels and gently squeeze down to express water. Cut tofu in thirds lengthwise, then finish shape with a 3-inch biscuit cutter and set pieces aside on a plate.
Place a large nonstick skillet on medium heat and add 3 tablespoons of oil. Heat until simmering but not smoking. Add tofu and fry until brown on one side, then turn over and fry the other side, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour sauté sauce into the skillet, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, gently shaking the pan back and forth, to reduce and concentrate the flavors of the sauce (tofu should be creamy on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside). Remove from pan and place on a small bowl and top with sesame seeds.
It can be served warm or at room temperature…