In less than a week I will be traveling to Vietnam, where among other things, I will be in food heaven. There is nothing quite like the combination of spicy, sweet and fresh available in most Vietnamese dishes.
I have been told that most Vietnamese restaurants and homes have their own version of the gơi chay or gơi gà recipe. In addition to cabbage and tofu, bean curd (or traditionally, chicken), many add carrots, onions, cucumbers, or bean sprouts. Fresh herbs make the dish quintessentially Vietnamese and may include rau răm (Vietnamese coriander), various kinds of basil, mint, or cilantro. These ingredients are tossed with a tangy dressing made of some combination of rice vinegar, lemon or lime juice, nước mắm (fish sauce), soy sauce, garlic, chili peppers, or sugar.
Here’s a vegan version of the recipe, and while delicious, I hope it will be even more scruptious after some inspiration from being on location! It’s simple to prepare for dinner and even better as leftovers, when the ingredients have have some time to marinate.
Gơi Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Salad) Serves 6
1 pound extra firm tofu Vegetable oil 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 1/8 cup tamari (or soy sauce) a splash of rice vinegar a pinch of coconut palm sugar or jaggary (dissolved into the vinegar) 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 1 serrano or Thai bird pepper, deseeded and finely chopped 1 head green cabbage, shredded 2 carrots, peeled and shredded Large handful of herbs (basil, mint, rau răm if available), coarsely chopped or torn Rice noodles (optional) 1/2 cup peanuts, crushed
Cut tofu into bite-size pieces and press between clean kitchen towels or paper towels to rid excess water. Heat oil in a skillet and fry tofu until golden brown. Drain excess oil.
In a large bowl, combine lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic, and chili pepper. Add cabbage, carrots, herbs, and tofu to the bowl and toss to combine. Let sit for at least 15 minutes or refrigerate for up to a day before serving.
Serve the salad by itself or over cooked rice noodles and sprinkle with peanuts.