Chickpea Tofu Salad (Burmese Salad with Shan Tofu)
“This is one of those uniquely Burmese salads that makes you rethink what a salad really is,” writes Desmond Tan and his co-author Kate Leahy of the Burma Superstar cookbook, from which this recipe is adapted. In this case, it’s a refreshing mix of dense but silky, turmeric-infused chickpea tofu – called Shan tofu, as it originated in the Shan State of Myanmar – mixed with crunchy fried garlic and onions, and a tamarind ginger dressing. ”It’s the perfect thing to eat on a hot afternoon in the tropics.” One batch of the tofu will allow you to make two of these salads. Or the chefs suggest using half of the tofu to make the salad and deep-frying the remaining half to nibble on.
Yield: serves 2-4
Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
- 1⁄2 cup canola oil, plus more for greasing
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1⁄2 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1 1⁄2 oz. seedless tamarind pulp
- 3 tbsp. thinly sliced fresh garlic
- 1⁄2 whole yellow onion, thinly sliced, divided
- 1⁄2 whole lime, juiced
- 1 whole fresh Thai chile, thinly sliced (optional)
- 1⁄2 tsp. dried chile flakes
toasted chickpea flour
- 1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, plus a few sprigs for garnish
- Make the Shan tofu: Lightly oil an 8x4-inch loaf pan. In a small pot, whisk the chickpea flour, 1 teaspoon salt, turmeric, and 1 cup of cold water; set aside for 10 minutes.
- Set the pot over low heat, then whisk in 2 additional cups of cold water. Cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is chunky (and about as thick as Play-doh) and leaves a film along the bottom of the pot when stirred, 5-8 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to the oiled loaf pan and use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread it as evenly as possible. Let cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the tamarind water: In a small bowl, combine the tamarind pulp with ¾ cup boiling water. Set aside for 10 minutes, occasionally using your hands or a spoon to squish the pulp and break it up into the water. Set a fine-mesh strainer over another small bowl and strain the tamarind water, pressing down on the pulp to extract as much as possible; discard the pulp. Stir the tamarind water (the water tends to settle, with some of the tamarind solids falling to the bottom of the container), and measure 2 tablespoons for the salad. Reserve the rest in the refrigerator for another use.
- In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sliced onion and the lime juice and set aside.
- When the tofu is set, unmold it carefully onto a cutting board and slice it in half lengthwise. Thinly slice one of the resulting rectangles crosswise. Reserve the other piece for another use.
- Fry the garlic: Line a large plate with paper towels. In a medium wok or pan, add ½ cup canola oil. Heat the oil over medium heat for one minute, then gently stir in all of the garlic. When bubbles start to form rapidly around the garlic, lower the heat to low and cook, stirring often, until the garlic is an even golden color and almost completely crisp, about 3 minutes. (Depending on the freshness and variety of garlic, this cooking time may vary: If the garlic starts to darken too quickly, remove it from the heat and let it continue to fry in the oil. If the garlic needs more time to fry, return the wok to low heat and continue to fry.) Quickly remove to the paper-towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon. In the pan with the oil, add the remaining onion, lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until the onion has evenly browned and turned crispy, 10-14 minutes.
- Pour the fried onions and 3 tablespoons of the frying oil into the bowl with the tofu and let cool to room temperature. Add the reserved raw onion mixture and cilantro sprigs and season with kosher salt; toss gently.
- Make the salad: In a large bowl, add the Shan tofu mixture, fried garlic chips, Thai chile (if using), chile flakes, chickpea flour, tamarind water, and chopped cilantro. Using your hands or a spoon, mix gently to evenly coat all the pieces. Serve immediately.