Spicy Tofu Celery Salad
This recipe is sized for a potluck!
I call it a “salad”, the Chinese name for it might be “liang ban tofu gan”. Liang ban is a technique used to dress cold vegetables of all kinds. Once you’re comfortable with the sauce and technique, you can use it to dress carrots and blanched bean sprouts! Or poached chicken!
Ingredients & Sourcing
- 4 blocks Tofu Gan – This is the center piece of the dish. You can find it labeled as “Braised Tofu” or “Tofu Gan” or “Pressed Tofu Blocks” in the store. They’re very firm, they’re brown on the outside, and do not come in water (they come in plastic though). Hodo Soy calls theirs “Braised tofu”, and that’s widely available where I live.
- 1 bunch celery – Just normal standard celery here, Chinese celery would be an OK substitute, please don’t use only the hearts.
- tablespoon kosher salt
- neutral oil (grapeseed / canola)
- 1/4 cup Chili oil
- a few tablespoons Szechuan peppercorn, toasted, then ground in a spice grinder – I have a lot more I could say about these, but if you’re having difficulty sourcing, I actually buy mine online here. To toast, follow something similar to the chilis in the chili oil. Don’t burn ‘em. The black bits in the peppercorns should be removed, they’re gritty af. Your bag has a lot of black bits? Find a different source. Can’t find any near you, or find this process laborious? You can skip it, or use commercial szechuan peppercorn oil.
- a few tablespoons soy sauce – I use light soy sauce, Pearl River Bridge brand.
- a few tablespoons Chinkiang “Chinese black” vinegar – If you don’t have this vinegar on hand, strong sherry vinegar and a tablespoon of sugar can substitute.
Short note on ingredients The above is the majority of my pantry list for all my Chinese cooking. That’s it! Once you have those ingredients, you can make lots of other tasty things.
- Chop celery on the bias (diagonal), as shown here
- Lightly salt celery with a tablespoon of kosher salt. Let rest.
- Chop tofu gan vertically / horizontally so that it’s around the same thickness as your celery.
- Poach celery pieces for 1-2 minutes until they change color.
- Stir fry tofu gan pieces, you might have to go in batches as well. After it’s fully coated in oil and hot, add the soy sauce and vinegar. Keep stir frying until fully absorbed. Remove from heat.
- Combine celery and tofu gan, top with chili oil and Szechuan peppercorn, gently toss to combine. Add additional soy sauce and vinegar to taste (although err on the side of dressing more assertively–cold dampens flavors).
Chill. Serve within a few days. Tastes better after chilling and marinating in the fridge over night. Shake before serving.