Japanese Tofu and Umami Grain Salad

Flavoured tofu tastes great, but the bought kind is often too full of fat and salt to be truly healthy – and it’s expensive too. But by taking the DIY approach you can look after your wallet and waistline, and create your own unique taste. The varieties you can create are endless: go Asian – like in this recipe, Spanish (smoked paprika, garlic, dried onion powder), Greek (dried oregano, evoo and red wine vinegar – a great sub for feta cheese) or even American (BBQ sauce!). Think of the cuisines you crave and slather the key flavors onto your tofu. Because, let’s face it, tofu needs all the help it can get.

All you do is get best quality organic firm tofu, a smidge of your favorite oil (I like sesame, but cold-pressed canola and argan are great too), maybe some shoyu or soy sauce if you are keeping it Asian, a dash of something acidic like cider vinegar, umeboshi vinegar or lemon, and fresh or dried herbs and spices. Toss it gently and marinate for at least one hour. Home-marinated tofu is so easy and delicious, you might forget it’s good for you.

As for this recipe, don’t be put off by the long-ish ingredient list – it’s really easy to put together. And as it’s a ‘meal salad’, you don’t need to make anything else to go with it.

The tofu

1 pkg firm tofu (standard size, about 14 oz/400g), cubed
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp shoyu, tamari or dark soy sauce
1 tbsp spiced Chinese vinegar, umeboshi vinegar or rice wine vinegar

100g mixed grains (I use the Italian par-cooked 5-grain Pedone brand) or quinoa
Two 5 cm pieces kombu, soaked (optional)
1 tbsp shoyu, or similar
2 tsp spiced Chinese vinegar, or similar
1 fat garlic clove, peeled
1/2 tsp agave nectar (optional)
1 tsp rapeseed oil
½ tsp wasabi paste (more, to taste)
2 tsp umeboshi paste
¼ tsp ground ginger or ½ tsp ginger juice
6 radishes, thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced (I like ‘buttery’ Haas)
6 scallions/spring onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
1 carrot, peel-cut in curls or sliced in matchsticks
¼ cucumber, quartered, deseeded and thinly sliced
toasted sesame seeds
½ sheet toasted nori (seaweed used for sushi), thinly cut with scissors

For the tofu, toss together the ingredients and leave for at least one hour (or overnight). Set aside.

Cook the grains with the kombu (if using) as per package instructions but shave off a minute or two to keep it firm. Drain, and rinse before cutting up the kombu and leaving both to one side.

For the ‘umami mix’ use a mini processor, pestle and mortar or hand-blender to mix the shoyu, vinegar, garlic, agave, oil, wasabi, umeboshi and ginger powder. Toss this into the warm grains and kombu, along with all but the last two ingredients. Decant into a serving platter and top with the seeds and nori. Serve with a glass of cold matcha green tea for a mega-nutritious lunch feast. Serves 4

Per ½ c serving of tofu: 10.1 grams of protein, 1.5 – 5 g fat (brand dependent), approximately 95 calories and 22 % RDA of calcium. See Tofu and Aubergine Lime-Basil stir fry and Tofu Nutritional Information for more information about tofu.

Like this kind of recipe? Try my Sushi Made Simple, featuring quinoa of al things.

Kellie Anderson

I'm Kellie and I develop and tweak easy, healthy and hopefully tasty recipes for family, friends, clients and my cancer nutrition workshops at the Maggies Cancer Caring Centres. I am also a health writer and urban chicken keeper. It's not all lentils and hemp sandals on my site. So, if you are up for something a bit different, but not too 'worthy', come and visit: Food to Glow

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