Do you always pass by tofu at the market, glance it but never pick her up? Do you eat tofu only because it is vegetarian/vegan, but not because of its taste? Tofu will weep if this is how you treat it. .
Here is a great way for you to begin with a real, tasty tofu dish and the ability to enjoy it in so many ways. This quick & easy tofu dressing makes a great sandwich filling by itself or with other sandwich ingredients, a delicious pasta sauce and is wonderful on a traditional Japanese or American salad. Delicious, healthy, filling …who needs more? It is also perfect to offer to your family or friends as part of a varied dietary choice.
The dressing is called Shira-ae. It is a traditional Japanese tofu dressing in which sesame seeds are ground to oily, pasted consistency; tofu is added and ground together with the sesame seeds until becoming a rather fine pasty material. I like it in a slightly coarse version. It is then flavored with some dashi, shoyu (soy sauce), mirin, sugar and salt.
Here is my own very delicious walnut Shira-ae recipe. Walnuts are a replacement for sesame seeds. I first roast chopped walnuts (nuts should be well warmed up, so that they produce oil and lovely fragrance). Add them to a suribachi mortar and grind them with a surigoki pestle (read about suribachi and surikogi in my previous blog: http://hirokoskitchen.com/2017/07/suribachi-is-powerful/ ). When the ground nuts begin to acquire an oily texture, I add firm tofu, which has already been squeezed in a cloth to remove excess water and has been roughly mashed by my hands. Grind all the ingredients together until tofu achieves my favorite texture – not a fine pasty one, but a rather coarser texture. Flavor this with shoyu (soy sauce), mirin (I will tell you my recent recovery – the Best Mirin Substitute in my next blog) and salt and continue to grind. Then, adjust the texture by adding little dashi (Japanese stock). Adding dashi does two things – 1) Make the dressing softer, 2) Add additional umami to the dressing. But, I warn you that adding too much dashi will dilute your dressing and causes a disaster in the dish that you are preparing. When I use Shira-ae for my sandwich filling I do not add dashi. For pasta sauce the pasta water replaces dashi. So, you can make your own decision about the added liquid. By the way for my Shira-ae pasta sauce I add additional flavors such as garlic, olive oil, spices and always little additional salt.
Preparing Shira-ae dressing with Japanese tools requires less than 10 minutes fun time in the kitchen. For those who do not have a suribachi and surikogi, use a food processor.
Here is my recipe. If you come up with some other very good variation of Shira-ae, please send the recipe to me I will post it and share it with the Japanese food lovers.
½ cup broken walnuts, toasted
7 ounces firm tofu
2 tablespoons walnuts butter
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon shoyu (soy sauce)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Preparation: please find it in the main text.