Pad Thai Noodle Salad with Tofu & Mango
On the whole, I don’t consider myself much of a salad person, which really isn’t fair as the only salads I really don’t like are the leafy kind: chuck in a grain, pulse, or carb, and I’m on board big time!
I don’t know exactly what inspired the recipe below. I think a few things I’ve eaten over the years converged; walking through the shops, I started grabbing things, and then came home and just started cooking... and, rather quickly, it was born!
As a side, this will serve 4 - 6, otherwise as a main it will serve 2 - 4, depending on how hungry everyone is. The recipe can be scaled up very easily, it’ll just be a matter of finding a large enough bowl!
Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge overnight and eaten for lunch the next day, but the noodles will start to get a bit mushy after that, so keep that in mind if preparing a larger amount.
Prepare in advance
In a medium Pyrex measuring cup, or small glass bowl, combine:
- 1 medium red onion, roughly cubed (slice 1cm lengthways, turn, and then slice 1cm the opposite way)
- 1 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped*
- 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled and finely chopped*
- 1 red chilli, thinly sliced*
- Juice of two limes
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons mirin
- 1 teaspoon black vinegar (leave out if you don’t have on hand)
- 1 teaspoon each of toasted sesame oil and a neutral-tasting oil (such as canola)
- A few cracks each of Salt and black pepper
Stir well to combine (and break up the onion), then put in the fridge to for 1 - 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Slice a 450g block of tofu into approx. 1cm cubes.
Line a baking tray with baking paper or a silpat, and then pour over 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of neutral-tasting oil (such as canola) and a few cracks each of Salt and black pepper. Stir everything together, then spread out the cubes to make sure none of them are touching before placing in the oven.
Bake the tofu for approximately 30 minutes, until lightly browned and puffed up slightly. Remove from the oven, and place on a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before using in salad.
Just before serving
Set a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Do not salt the water.
While you’re waiting for the water to boil, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl (fill up about halfway with cool water and then add about a tray of ice cubes); store in the fridge or freezer until the water boils to keep it cool.
When the water has boiled, add 2 x 200g packets of pad Thai (thick rice) noodles. Stir and cook for 6 minutes. Drain and add to the ice bath, stirring to ensure the cool water is distributed around the noodles. I like to get my hands in and stir; this is both easier than using tongs, and also means I can feel all around the noodles to make sure they’re completely cool.
Leave the noodles in the ice bath until ready to assemble the salad.
In the serving bowl, combine the following:
- 1 Lebanese cucumber, thinly sliced
- Half a punnet cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
- 1 large mango, diced*
- Cooled tofu and noodles
Finely chop 1/2 a bunch of coriander, and stir through the dressing (if serving the chilli separately, remove 1/4 at this point and stir through the chilli, then serve separately*).
Pour the dressing over the salad, and stir through. Taste one of the noodles, and add a little more salt, soy sauce, lime juice or rice vinegar to taste.
Some * notes:
- to make things easier, you can use a pre-seasoned tofu (such as the Soyco brand), or use a pre-made plant based meat, just make sure you briefly grill or sauté first and allow to cool.
- even though the acid in the dressing will cook and mellow the garlic and onion, it won’t do that for the chilli, so be careful when adding it! If you’re unsure (especially if serving for guests), leave it out when you’re first making the dressing; before dressing the salad, set aside about 1/4 cup and stir some chilli through that and serve separately, so guests can add if it they like. I also just say “1 red chilli”; choose your preferred variety depending on how much heat you like. I find the long red Thai chillis (the 15cm long ones) are perfect, but select according to your tastes.
- I say to chop the ginger and garlic rather than grate it or mince it; they will be mellowed by the acid in the dressing, so chopping them ensures they still have a nice bite, rather than just dissolving into the dressing.
- If mango isn’t in season, you could try other fruits, but the mango adds a beautiful sweetness that helps lift the dressing without needing to add any sugar, so probably just wait until it is; this is a perfect hot summer lunch or dinner!