“Chinese Chicken” Salad
This is an old recipe of mine, which I used to do a lot and then forgot about until recently. It’s a bit labor intensive, and slightly evil (if deep-fried tofu qualifies) but it’s a serious crowd-pleaser and gets people into eating heaps of salad so I think it’s worth it.
- 2 # tofu
- 1 -2 cups peanut oil (for deep-frying)
- 2 cup water
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- pinch of red chili flakes
- 1/4 t. white pepper
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- high quality salt
- white pepper
- 2 romaine heads, cut into 1″ strips
- 2 cucumber, sliced thin
- 1/2 green apple, sliced paper-thin
- 1/2 red pepper, in thin strips
- 2/3 cups toasted almonds
- 2/3 packs rice or bean thread noodles (optional)
- 2/3 cups thinly onions or shallots (optional)
Make the tofu “chicken” by cutting tofu into thin strips - roughly 1 x 3 inches in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick. Deep fry in small batches in hot peanut oil, draining well on fresh paper towels as you go. As you fry, combine water, soy sauce, maple syrup, yeast, chili and white pepper in a large deep skillet or braising pan, bring to a boil. As you fry, add well-drained batches of fried tofu to the simmering liquid, mixing in as you add each new batch. Continue to boil the tofu in sauce, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid in the pan is absorbed and the tofu just begins to caramelize on the bottom of the pan. Watch it carefully here and pull off just before it browns or starts to burn. There should be a nice slightly thickened glaze coating all the tofu, and some tofu pieces will be a bit crunchier than others – that’s all good. Transfer to a sheet pan or baking sheet and cool completely.
Once the tofu is out, deep fry handfuls of dry rice or bean threads very quickly in the hot oil just until they puff up. Drain on towels. Fry onions or shallots if using.
Whisk together all dressing ingredients to combine. Set aside.
When ready to assemble, combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl, topping with cooled tofu and fried noodles, and toss lightly with some of the salad dressing. Serve immediately while the noodles are still crisp, passing the remaining dressing at the table.
For a great almost-Fall meal, I serve this with sesame or scallion buns, and a hot (or chilled, depending on how almost it is) ginger carrot soup…