My time living in Japan had impressed upon me how delicious and healthy foods can easily be made with humble ingredients. Many South East Asians have enjoyed Konnyaku Jelly as a refreshing dessert – it is somewhat like the all familiar Agar Agar but with a more chewy texture. There are many forms of Konnyaku and they are used frequently in savoury dishes too. Sukiyaki uses shirataki which is konnyaku in the noodle form. Click here for my article on “Konnyaku De-mystified”.
I am also introducing an old kitchen pal – the Benriner Mandolin slicer. For more than 2 decades it has been giving me precise shreds of both hard vegetables (cucumber, carrots and daikon) and softer vegetables (winter bamboo shoots for poh piah filling, cabbage too). The control freak part of me likes the fact that the thickness of the slice can be controlled with the turning of the screw below the board. Click here for a detailed description of how this mandolin operates and for consumer reviews.
Shira-ae means “dressed in white”. The white refers to the tofu dressing made mainly of mashed tofu but there is no vinegar nor oil. Traditionally, vegetables are usually sliced carrots, spinach, Konnyaku, green beans, and sometimes persimmons and these are cooked and seasoned to give the “salad” a stronger flavour before mixing with tofu dressing. This dish is served cold.
The photo of the ingredients you will need shows a Silken tofu which has a higher percentage of water than momen tofu (or cotton tofu which is firmer). Meidiya is the only place I know in Singapore that makes its tofu fresh. Hinode Ryorishu is a brand of cooking sake (it adds a complex taste that can stand up to cooking and other tastes like sugar, soy sauce etc).
Photo above shows you how we shred around the soft watery centre of the Japanese cucumber. Just flip the section of cucumber around. Photo below shows that you have to place the shredded cucumber on top of a paper towel to absorb liquid. By doing this, the tofu dressing will not be watered down later on. Shredded carrots don’t require this step. Put shredded vegetables in the fridge.
Blanch tofu in boiling water for about 20 seconds, drain and cool. ALTERNATIVE method: Slice Tofu into 6-8 pieces. Place them on paper towels over a plate and microwave for 2 minutes. Change to new paper towels and microwave for 2 more minutes. Change to new paper towels again and let Tofu cool.
I used a potato masher to mash cooled Silk tofu. Japanese households have a suribashi to grind tofu but it is not necessary for our purpose. (a food processor does this job well).I prefer to line a colander with cloth to drain mashed tofu. Let it drain the fridge. In future, I would buy momen tofu or a local pressed tofu (not tau kwa) which has a much lower water content so that I can skip this step.
The block of konnyaku in the photo above was sliced and pan fried without oil for 2 to 3 mins, flipped once . Cool.
Place the cold tofu, vegetables and konnyaku in a bowl and pour in the sauce. Mix well.
Source of recipe: “Quick & Easy Japanese Cuisine for Everyone” by Yukiko Moriyama
Serves 5 to 6 persons
- 400 to 450 gm momen tofu, blanched, mashed and drained
- 1 cucumber, finely shredded & drained
- 1 carrot, finely shredded
- 1 block of konnyaku, sliced and panfried without oil.
Sauce: ( stir together till sugar melts)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp fine sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 Tbsp cooking sake
- 1 Tbsp usukuchi soy sauce
Method: This is a cold side dish. Keep all prepared ingredients in the fridge. Mix the ingredients to make the “salad” only when you are ready to serve.
1. Blanch tofu in boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds. Mash with a potato masher and drain, if necessary.
2. Finely shred cucumber and carrots.
3. Mix the sauce.
4. Just before eating, mix as shown in above photo.
Most Japanese meals at home consists of rice and soup with some dishes (usually one is raw, one is simmered, and one is grilled). If you are also having guests, another dish which is deep-fried is added and the crockery is much more ornate and of finer porcelain and lacquer.
The meal is always served with green tea and fresh fruit.
Consider any one or more of the recipes listed below for a complete nutritious tasty Japanese meal. Purchase a plate of sashimi and/or sushi to accompany your servings. This will impress both family and guests alike.
1. Soup – Miso Soup and Brown Rice. Click here.
2. Chawan Mushi (Steamed Egg custard) Click here.
3. Tofu no Shira-ae. Click here.
4. Simmered Pumpkin. Click here.
5. Yawata Maki. Click here.
6. Japanese Potato Salad. Click here.
7. Pari Pari style Chicken Wings. Click here.
8. Caramel Custard Click here.
9. Almond Jelly and Longans. Click here.