Shiraae is one of Japan’s most popular tofu side dishes. Shira means “white” and ae means “dressed” or “mixed”. Taken together, shiraae is vegetables dressed with a white dressing made with of tofu and white sesame. It is not unlike a Japanese hummus (beans + tahini). Shiraae is a classic aemono, or “dressed salads.” Since there is no oil used in this dressing, it is a great option if you are looking for a low-fat, high-protein salad.
Types of tofu for shiraae
Both firm momen and silken kinugoshi tofu can be used to make shiraae, but with distinct results. Firm tofu will produce a dressing that is crumbly, while silken tofu will produce a dressing that is more saucy. Depending on the vegetables you are using, you can choose accordingly. Soft vegetables like spinach go better with a firm shiraae, while hard vegetables like carrots and konnyaku go better with a saucy silken shiraae.
If you prefer to go soy-free, replace the tofu with equal amount of soaked cashews. The dressing will still be white, hence still respecting its name shiraae.
Seasoning the tofu dressing
The most basic shiraae is crumbled tofu and a pinch of salt. Popular additions are crushed white sesame seeds or tahini, usukuchi soy sauce (to preserve the colour), miso and sugar. Since I prefer to eat sugar-free, I use more shiro miso, which has a natural sweetness, and skip the sugar. For a more complex, avant garde version with the benefits of fermented foods, you can add shio koji or used koji or miso cured tofu instead of plain tofu as the base.
Type of vegetables for shiraae
Use seasonal vegetables for shiraae. Most common are asparagus, carrots, spinach, konnyaku, mushrooms and broccoli. The vegetables are braised shortly in a soy-tinged dashi for extra flavour before mixing into the tofu dressing.
How to best enjoy shiraae
The assembled salad is best chilled for 4-6 hours before serving to allow the flavours to meld. You can enjoy as a side dish for go further by using the salad to fill pouches, sandwiches or wraps.
Yasai no Shiraae (Vegetables in White Dressing)
Shiraae, or “white dressing,” is one of Japan’s most popular tofu side dishes, and a classic aemono, or “dressed salads.” It comprises of two components - seasoned mashed tofu and soy-braised vegetables. It is best chilled for 4-6 hours before serving. You can go further by using the salad to fill pouches, sandwiches or wraps.
- 150 g (1/2 block) tofu (firm momen or silken kinugoshi)
- 15 g (1 1/2 tbsp) freshly roasted sesame seeds or tahini
- 12 g (2 tsp) saiyako or shiro miso
- 4 g (1 tsp) tamari or usukuchi soy sauce
- 10 g 2 tsp shio koji (optional, if using halve the amount of tamari)
- vegan dashi (optional, as needed)
- 90 g (3 oz) green beans
- 70 g (2 1/2 oz) carrot, peeled and julienned
- 2 no dried shiitake, rehydrated and thinly sliced
- 120 g (1/2 cup) vegan dashi
- 1/2 tbsp tamari or usukuchi soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp sake or mirin
Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the tofu and blanch for 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the tofu to a colander lined with a cheesecloth or nut milk bag. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess moisture from the tofu. It is fine to mash the tofu while doing this.
Put the drained tofu in a bowl, along with the remaining ingredients. Use your fingers and crumble the tofu, mixing it with the other ingredients at the same time. Set aside until assembly of the salad.
In a saucepan, add dashi, and bring to a bare simmer. Add green beans, carrot, shiitake and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half. Season with tamari and sake or mirin and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the liquid is almost gone and the vegetables have a glazed appearance.
Remove the saucepan from heat and let the vegetables cool to room temperature. When cool, fold the vegetables into the Shiraae dressing.
Like curries, Shiraae salad tastes better when the flavours are allowed to meld for 4 hours or overnight.
Types of tofu. Firm momen tofu will make a crumbly dressing, while silken kinugoshi tofu will make a saucy dressing. To improve digestibility or a more complex flavour, you can also use cured tofu such as tofu kojizuke or misozuke.
Seasoning the tofu dressing. Crushed sesame seeds, soy sauce, miso and sugar are common seasonings. Usukuchi soy sauce will help preserve the white colour of the dressing. For gluten-free version, use tamari instead of soy sauce, but tamari will stain the dressing light brown.
Types of vegetables. Spinach (blanched) and konnyaku (dry-roasted) are other common vegetables used in shiraae salad.
Types of aemono. Shiraae (tofu), gomaae (sesame), misoae (miso), karashiae (mustard).
Soy-free option. Replace tofu with equal amounts of soaked cashews (about 105 g dry cashews).