Shira ae (白和え) is my favorite traditional Japanese dish. When translated to English it means mashed tofu salad. If you don’t know this Japanese recipe, you are missing out. Why? Because it is healthy, so tasty and super easy to make. So let’s make it.
What is Shira Ae?
Shira ae is a traditional Japanese side dish just like Goma ae. I have explained the meaning of “ae” in the previous Goma ae post. Ae is from the verb Aeru which means to dress vegetables, salad, etc. Now Shira means white which indicates Tofu in this recipe. So vegetables, konjac, and hijiki, etc dressed with creamy tofu is called Shira ae.
Plant-based “Shojin Ryori”
Shira ae is a very typical Buddhist cuisine “Shojin Ryori”. Shojin Ryori is derived from Buddhist devotion. Therefore Shojin Ryori dishes are made from vegetables, grains, and seaweeds avoiding birds, animals, and fish.
There are two types of tofu; Firm Tofu (Momen tofu) and Silken tofu (Kinugoshi tofu). I used to use firm tofu for this recipe when I lived in Japan. I liked it because of the texture of the little bits of tofu that remained after making it. Though I have found that the firm tofu overseas is firmer than it is in Japan. So I recommend using Silken tofu if you like a silky smooth and creamy dressing.
Drain moisture from Tofu to make Shira ae
There are a few ways to drain the tofu. Some people cook the tofu in boiling water for about a minute to remove the excess water. Or you could wrap the tofu with some paper towel, place a weight on top of it and leave for about 15-20 minutes.
How to make the Tofu dressing?
A useful piece of Japanese equipment for making tofu dressing is a ceramic mortar and pestle. I use this because I like the chunky texture of Tofu. If you do not own any Japanese mortar and pestle, you can use a food processor instead that will make a really creamy tofu dressing.
Vegetables typically used in Shiraae are Spinach, carrot, green beans, shimeji mushrooms, edible chrysanthemum, konjac, and seaweeds such as hijiki. These are all delicious with tofu dressings with toasted sesame seeds.
One important tip
You can make the tofu dressing, and prepare vegetables beforehand. However, toss them all together just before serving. This is important because the vegetable ingredients become watery over time and Shiraae becomes soggy. So for that reason, do not mix them and leave it for a long time before eating.
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Shira ae Mashed Tofu Salad
- 150g/5oz Tofu firm or silken
- 2 tbsp roasted white sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 0.5 tsp salt
Salad vegetables *1
- 60g/2oz Konnyaku
- 30g/1oz carrot
- 1/2 cup edamame soybeans (frozen and without pods)
- 1 tbsp dry hijiki
- Put paper towel around the tofu and put a weight (like a plate or bowl) on top of the tofu for 15 minutes to take out the excess water.
- In a mortar and pestle, grind the sesame seeds.
- Break the tofu into the mortar and add sugar and salt and mix/grind well.
- Cut the konnyaku, carrot, into bite size pieces and cook them in boiling water for a few minutes.
- Drain them and put aside.
- reconstitute hijiki by leaving them in a bowl of water for about 20 minutes.
- drain the water and squeeze out any excess water. Set it aside.
- When everything is prepared to combine, place them all together in a large mixing bowl and combine them all together, just before serving.