Healthy ingredients don’t have to seem humdrum. Here they give rise to a summery southeast Asian-inspired salad that juxtaposes crunchy with tender and sweet with a little chili heat. Originally published August 31, 2009.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Spread the tofu on several layers of paper towels and let drain slightly, about 20 minutes. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, place a paper towel–lined platter on the rack, and heat the oven to 200°F (93°C).
Place a wire rack over a baking sheet and set aside. Toss the cornstarch and cornmeal together in a shallow dish. Season the tofu with salt and pepper. Working with a few pieces of tofu at a time, coat them thoroughly with the cornstarch mixture, pressing on the coating to adhere, then transfer to the wire rack.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Carefully lay half of the tofu in the skillet and cook, turning the pieces occasionally with a spatula, until crisp and lightly golden on all sides, about 4 minutes. Using a spatula, gently lift the tofu from the oil, letting any excess oil drip back into the skillet, and transfer to the prepared platter in the oven. Repeat with the remaining tofu pieces and transfer to the platter in the oven. Discard any oil left in the skillet and wipe it out with a wad of paper towels.
Make the salad
Combine all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
Make the dressing
Add the oil to the skillet and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, and chili sauce, and bring to a brief simmer, about 15 seconds.
Off the heat, measure out and reserve 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Pour the remaining dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to combine. Divide the cabbage between four plates and arrange the warm tofu over the top. Spoon the reserved dressing over the tofu before serving.
What a delicious and easy way to serve crispy tofu with lots of healthy vegetables. The tofu’s crust will appeal to many who don’t care for it plain. Tossing the cabbage salad with the warm dressing to wilt it slightly is a wonderful technique. The good quantity of fresh cilantro and mint gives the salad a bright, fresh taste.
The instructions are clear and simple to accomplish. They do, however, require you to dirty more dishes than necessary, but with such tasty results, finding a volunteer to help clean up shouldn’t be hard.