My tofu skin salad fell flat - what should I do differently?
- Dave MP Jun 22, 2012 03:38 PM
The other night, I decided to make a cold dish of tofu skin and cucumber. I was trying to replicate something I ate at Wang's in Somerville, MA....although I didn't follow any particular recipe.
I took some dried bean curd skin (like is pictured here: http://www.chow.com/digest/116528/dem...) and soaked it in hot water for a while, then cut it in pieces. I also cut up some cucumber in pieces. The tofu skin turned out well, and was exactly the texture I was looking for.
Then I made my dressing, which is where things fell short. I put in some soy sauce, red-wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, a bit of salt, and a bit of sugar. The result was kind of.....boring. I only let it sit about 20 minutes before eating, so that may play a role. Also, I used red-wine vinegar instead of rice vinegar, since I was out of rice vinegar.
But does anybody have advice about how to make this dish taste better? Maybe it was just a matter of using more of the ingredients I listed....or maybe I should have added something else. Any help would be appreciated!
Rice vinegar is usually described as milder and sweeter than Western ones, including wine vinegar. It may, for example, be diluted to 4% acidity, as opposed to 5 or 6.
Dave's complaint seems to be that the dressing lacks something, as opposed to the vinegar being too strong or assertive (or wrong color). So if he isn't missing something, maybe there isn't enough of something else, like the salt and sugar. But I haven't been to Wangs so can't say what characterizes their salad.
I may be thinking of a different dish at Wang's. But I thought Wang's used a dried tofu, kind of like slivers? It's gan si.
Regardless, for your dish, here are some thoughts.
For the cucumber, if you have time, slice and salt for at least half an hour. Then shake and dry (I sometimes use paper towels). I find the cucumber becomes really crispy and it just elevates its tastiness.
Also, if you are out of rice vinegar, I find a little plain white vinegar is a little better. Or do you have the chiang king vinegar? That dark stuff?
You might have needed to add more of your ingredients. Maybe a smidge of garlic, a smidge of hot pepper and cilantro will help ease the blahs.
I do love tofu skin and now you've planted Wang's into my head.
What's its name on their menu? I don't think I've ordered it, but I just has to have garlic in it. Maybe white pepper too and possibly just a bit of ginger.
I agree that an important step is to pre-salt then gently squeeze the cucumber. They might also add a little vinegar for the pre-salting. 15-30 minutes should be good enough and probably up to 2-3 hours is okay. Discard the liquid that you squeeze from the cucumbers.
Did you use soy sauce because their dressing was dark? I would skip the soy sauce, use white vinegar instead of rice vinegar, add a little white pepper, and add more sugar. If their dressing was dark, it probably has chinkiang vinegar (chinese black vinegar) in it either instead of or with the white vinegar. MSG also adds a good flavor to this dish.
A number of CH have recommended black vinegar, but when I've looked at the labels in the store they appeared to have a lot of additions. I picked one that little of that, but now suspect it is a different thing entirely. It is Shanxi mature vinegar. I'm not quite sure what to think of it. I don't really like the flavor when sampled straight, and not sure where it would work well.
For what it's worth, Barbara Tropp thinks balsamic is an ok substitute for black vinegar (writing 1982).
ChinaDaily column on Chinese vinegars
The one I got is described as:
"Shanxi mature vinegar (Shanxi lao chencu) is brewed from a combination of sorghum, peas and barley - it is dark in color and has a particularly musty, rich flavor which works well with cold dishes, such as cold needle fish salad (lao cu zhe tou)."
I'd go for rice vinegar rather than red wine, and add some finely shredded fresh ginger to the dressing.
Black vinegar would give it a more complex flavour - the version I use also has stuff added to it, and it's definitely a Chinese brand.
Thanks everyone for the responses. I will try to make it again soon, following some advice here. I do have black vinegar, and yeah, I guess I should have used that. azra, good point about the soy sauce. Now that I think about it, the version at Wang's isn't dark at all....so maybe I don't actually need any soy. I think a bit of garlic might have helped too, and the cucumber trick sounds great as well.
I'll report back next time I make this for sure!
re: Dave MP
Tofu sticks need a little extra help to suck up flavor because they start out completely dry. Tofu skin comes in a variety of moisture levels, from fresh to partially dried, to completely dried.
You may have to saute the cut stick pieces in some of the dressing to allow the tofu to pick up the seasonings. The Wall Street Journal recently did an adaption of my spicy yuba ribbons recipe from the "Asian Tofu" cookbook. You could do something like that with your tofu skin sticks:
re: Dave MP
I think you should use rice vinegar or white vinegar, not Jinjiang (i.e. southern chinese black vinegar, btw, there are some brands of Jinjiang that don't have stuff added); No soy. A little salt (unless you salt the cukes). Sesame oil at least 1:1 with the vinegar, a little (drops not teaspoons) mustard oil if you want a teeny bit of kick, garlic clove that has been smashed w/ the side of a knife, grated ginger if you like (if you add grated ginger also add a pinch or so of sugar), white pepper.