Introduction: Tofu and Packed Rice Salad
I still have leftover tofu in the fridge and crackers I saved for "special occassions". As It is rather hot outside, it will be good to have not only cold desserts but also not-so-piping-hot food. With beansprouts in discounted price and leftover boil-in-a-bag rice, tofu and packed rice salad it is! Originally served in room temperature, In Indonesia this salad is usually served in different kind of sauces depend on the region. I actually prefer the tamarind sauce especially in this weather (the sourness balances the weather out), but I also made the peanut sauce as well.
It's actually an easily vegan-ised dish and also gluten free. The shrimp paste, shrimp crackers, and fish tofu I used in this recipe are here because I have them ready (and I'm mostly pescetarian), but you can always skip the shrimp paste (and add soy sauce, mushroom sauce or vegetable broth to add some umami), change the shrimp crackers to onion crackers or other kinds of crackers or just skip it (if you only have salted potato chips, just add them on top).
Step 1: Preparation
(For approx. 2-4 portions)
- 400g (2 pouches) Boil-in-a-bag-rice (You can also put rice inside boil-safe plastic bag). Basmati rice will ensure the best result, but any other rice is fine too.
- 500g Medium or firm tofu (I use fish tofu in this recipe because I only have it in the fridge. If you only have soft tofu, should be OK but better to press it a bit to let the water out). Cubed to bite-sized portion. (I believe tofu should be gluten-free but please read the label)
- 300g white cabbage
- 300g beansprouts
- Vegetable oil to fry the tofu (skip if you prefer not to fry the tofu)
- Enough water to blanch the vegetable with
Side dishes to add (additional, not explained in this recipe)
- Vegetable fritters (traditionally wheat flour based, but can easily be replaced by rice flour, corn flour, even oats (I actually made oat-fritter for this, but additional so not pictured))
- Rice noodles (gluten-free, vegan) or egg noodles (not gluten-free, vegetarian)
Sauces (You can choose either one)
- 2 tablespoon of dried tamarind (tamarind powder is also fine)
- 2 tablespoon of palm sugar (if you don't have palm sugar, brown sugar or jaggery will be the best substitute. Sugar as substitute if you really can't find any)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 red chillies (or to taste, skip if you don't like it spicy, add more if you like it spicy. I don't have fresh ones so just put the equivalent in chilli powder)
- 1/2 tablespoon of salt
- 500ml of water
- 4g of shrimp paste (skip or exchange with mushroom sauce or soysauce for vegan option)
Peanut sauce is basically the same with tamarind sauce but add
- 250g of peanuts (I don't have fresh ones so just use dry-roasted peanuts)
- Vegetable oil for frying (If you use fresh peanuts and OK with fried peanuts)
- Crackers (mostly gluten free as it's tapioca-based, but please read the label. Shrimp here as I only have shrimp ones, but onion crackers or other crackers are fine)
- Fried shallots (or fried onion. Usually gluten-free but please read the label)
- Cutting Board
- 2 pans, 1 pan for sauce and 1 pan for packed rice
- Frying pan to fry the tofu and peanuts or oven if you choose to bake them instead
- Mixing bowl or any container to blanch vegetables
- Kettle or something similar to boil water
- Either mortar and pestle or Food processor (for peanut sauce)
Step 2: Make Packed Rice + Bake/ Fry the Tofu
Packed rice is traditionally wrapped in palm leaves, and cooked in pressure cooker to cook it faster. Ain't nobody has palm leaves, my friend suggested boil-in-a-bag rice which works rather well. Boil boil-in-a-bag rice as the recipe in the package calls it, but use roughly twice the time to boil (I believe it will take at least an hour). Keep the bag fully submerged and add more water if it dries out. After it's cooked and looks firm enough to be deemed as packed rice, let it cool. Cut into bite sizes just before serving.
While waiting for the rice to boil, bake the tofu until half-done. Traditionally it's fried so that it's crunchy outside and soft inside, but I try to eat less fried food so baked tofu it is!
Step 3: Cook the Sauce
While waiting for the rice (it does take a long time to cook), let's make the sauce. To make tamarind sauce, add tamarind, palm sugar, shrimp paste (will taste better if you roast it on the pan a bit before hand), crushed garlic, salt, to 500ml of water, let it boil. Make sure that the sourness and the sweetness is right by adding the tamarind and palm sugar or adding water (sometimes dried tamarind and palm sugar differ in sourness/ sweetness so if it's not strong enough just add them).
To make peanut sauce, if you use fresh peanuts first fry the peanuts in a little of vegetable oil until it's cooked enough, or roast them to use less oil. Put all the dry sauce ingredients in a food processor, process but not too smooth to keep the peanut crunchiness in the sauce. If you want to go traditional, use mortar and pestle! Put them inside 500ml of water and let it boil. If you first fry the peanuts, put all the oil inside as well. Don't forget to adjust the sourness/ spiciness/ saltiness/ sweetness according to your taste.
Let the sauce cool. To make it cool-er I usually put them in the fridge (especially the tamarind sauce), but not everyone's a fan, so I suggest just let it cool until room temperature instead.
For vegetarian and vegan option, just skip the shrimp paste. If it's possible to add mushroom sauce or soy sauce (careful to read the label if you're gluten free as sometimes the sauce base contains wheat) to add some umami, you can add them. Other region's sauce recipe calls for soy sauce so it's not that off-beat to add them.
Step 4: Blanch the Vegetables
Shred the white cabbage in serving size (roughly as big as beansprouts/ matchstick), Boil about 1litre of water. Blanch the vegetables around 3 minutes. Rinse with cold water to make them crisp.
Step 5: Arrange Everything Together
After everything's finished and cool arrange the packed rice, tofu, cabbage, beansprouts (not in shallow plate, because of the sauce) in no specific order. In the picture you can also see vegetable fritter (but it's not compulsory) to add more crunch. Noodles is usually added for more carbohydrate (because more carbohydrate is better, just kidding). Add two tablespoon of sauce (or more if you like me and like a lot of them), and the topping last (the crackers can get too soggy if being put first).
It has a lot of ingredients, but you can prepare everything beforehand, put them in the fridge and just assemble them before eating (like I do). Traditionally it only calls for tofu+packed rice+beansprouts+cabbage+sauce, but if you have other vegetables, just add them inside, should be alright. Best eaten for lunch, but any time you want, really. I hope you can enjoy them.