Shira-ae is a vegetable side dish mixed with mashed Tofu. It is a little different from regular salad since there is no dressing like oil and vinegar. Shira-ae is served chilled, so in a sense it’s like salad. Shira-ae is hard to get in ordinary Japanese restaurants in the US, but this is a kind of food we grow up with.
People outside Japan might not have eaten Tofu in mashed form. They are usually cut into small cubes for Miso Soup or bigger square pieces for Nabe and so on. Here Tofu has no shape and works as more like a “dressing” that combines together with other ingredients rather than a main component of a dish. Tofu in Shira-ae is seasoned with sesame and soy sauce flavor, and it is a great side dish.
Vegetable used in Shira-ae is usually sliced carrots, spinach, Konnyaku (a firm jelly-like food made from konnyaku potatoes), green beans, and sometimes persimmons. Vegetables are cooked and seasoned before mixing with Tofu. This way the dish has a stronger flavor.
Preparation for the Tofu dressing is to dehydrate Tofu. Traditionally, we wrap Tofu with cloth and put some weight on it, and leave it for a few hours until the Tofu becomes a little firmer. It cannot be too dry, but you need to lose some of the water content of the Tofu so that the dish doesn’t taste watery. Well, we don’t have hours to spare for our video, so we used a microwave as a shortcut. That works pretty well. You can adjust how soft or firm by changing how long to microwave.
There may be a few more steps to make this small side dish, but it’s well worth some tiny trouble to be able to enjoy authentic Japanese food.
- 1 package Tofu
- 1/2 bunch spinach
- 1 cup Dashi(fish broth)
- 1 small carrot, thinly cut
- 1/2 block Konnyaku, thinly cut
- 1 Tbsp Mirin
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- --- sesame sauce ---
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- Slice Tofu into 6-8 pieces. Place them on paper towels over a plate and microwave for 2 minutes. Change to new paper towels and microwave for 2 more minutes. Change to new paper towels again and let Tofu cool.
- Cook spinach in boiling water for a minute. Wash under cold water and squeeze water out very well. Cut into 1" long bunches.
- In a medium pot, heat Dashi to boil, add carrot and Konnyaku, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add Mirin and soy sauce and cook until liquid is almost gone. Let it cool, then add spinach and mix.
- Grind sesame seeds, and mix with soy sauce and sugar.
- Mash Tofu and mix in sesame sauce. Then add cooked vegetables.