Tofu and bok choy pair up in this stir fry inspired salad recipe that's quick to assemble with minimal cooking. A great vegan dish full of flavor for a warm summer evening.
When things heat up in summer I like to find ways to make meals out of salads. That way I can spend less time in a hot kitchen and more time outside enjoying our all too brief Vermont summers.
But in order to keep salads interesting, you've got to have variation and creativity. Salads such as my Broiled Shrimp and Citrus Salad, Coronation Chicken Salad, Arugula and Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken, and this Vegan Pesto Pasta Salad, are good examples. They're all a bit different.
So when I saw the first bok choy of the season at my local food co-op, I knew it would work well as a base for an easy salad that's reminiscent of an Asian-inspired stir fry.
Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage. It's also known as pok choi or pak choi. But no matter what you call it, you won't find it in the shape of a typical round cabbage head. Instead, it has a white or cream-colored stalk with a cluster of stems and leaves coming out of the base.
Unlike some other greens, bok choy tends to run a little sweet, with baby bok choy being even sweeter. That means it's actually enjoyable to eat raw in a salad without the worry of the unpleasant bitterness of other greens.
I often like to make a bok choy stir fry because the leaves cook up in just a few short minutes. But I've found that when you chop it up, it also works well as a base for a salad. The leaves are tender while the stems have a bit of crunch, kind of like romaine lettuce but with more character.
I browned cubes of tofu lightly coated in ground ginger and cornstarch for added crispiness. Then chopped up other crunchy vegetables like radishes and broccoli. I top it off with dried cranberries and toasted sesame seeds before tossing the salad in a sesame ginger dressing that's the perfect balance of tangy, toasty, spicy, and sweet. You may just want to make double the dressing to have extra on hand.
For the salad:
- extra firm tofu
- ground ginger
- kosher salt
- olive oil
- bok choy
- dried cranberries
- sesame seeds
For the dressing:
- toasted sesame oil
- maple syrup
- lemon juice
- fresh ginger
- soy sauce (use tamari if you're gluten free)
- black pepper
See the recipe card below for quantities.
Drain the water from the tofu. Cut the block into ½ inch thick slices. If you have the time, place the slices between a couple of layers of paper towels and drain out excess water for 30 minutes. Whether you've pressed it or not, then cut the tofu into cubes.
Stir together the cornstarch, ground ginger, and salt in a large bowl. Add the tofu and toss to coat in the mixture. Heat a pan non-stick pan over medium heat with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil. Cook the tofu for about 2-3 minutes or until browned, then toss them around and repeat to cook the other sides.
Wash the produce. Then thinly slice the radishes, cut the broccoli into small pieces, and roughly chop the bok choy.
Now make the dressing. Pour the sesame oil, maple syrup, lemon juice, ginger, soy sauce, black pepper, and olive oil into a jar. Put on the lid and shake well to combine.
Finally, toast the sesame seeds in the empty tofu pan for 4-5 minutes over low heat, shaking the pan often to prevent burning. Then you're ready to assemble the salad. Start with a base of bok choy, then layer on the broccoli, radishes, dried cranberries, tofu, sesame seeds, and dressing.
Tofu Tip: I used to cook my tofu in a cast iron skillet. But no matter how much oil I used, it always seemed to stick. Then one day I tried using my non-stick skillet, which I only use for a handful of purposes. Not only did the tofu not stick, but it also came out perfectly golden brown and crispy. I've never looked back and cooking tofu has never been easier. Pretty much no matter what a recipe says, this is how I cook it for most tofu recipes.
I know, non-stick pans have a bad rap and food good reason. But there are better and safer non-stick options out there these days. The Food Network has some good reccomendations.
- Rice - Toss in a cup or so of cooked rice to add more substance to the salad
- Stir Fried - Not loving this dish as a salad? Turn it into a bok choy tofu stir fry. Stir fry the bok choy stems, radishes, and broccoli over high heat with a splash of olive oil until just tender. Make the dressing but omit the olive oil and pour this into the pan with the vegetables, along with the bok choy leaves, and cook another minute or two. Serve over rice, top with the fried tofu, sesame seeds, and cranberries and you've turned this into a stir fry recipe.
- Bok Choy and tofu: If bok choy with tofu doesn't interest you or you want to change things up, try other greens such as kale or spinach. And if you're not vegetarian or vegan, or don't care for tofu, I think this salad would be great with sliced grilled chicken breast or thighs.
When it comes to salad leftovers, I like to store the ingredients separately, then assemble the salad and toss it with the dressing right before eating. Though you can definitely pack this up in advance for a meal on the go without a problem. Any extra dressing will keep in the fridge for several days.Print