Traditional Japanese – Spinach Shiraae (Mashed Tofu Salad)

Today, I would like to introduce one of the traditional Shojin Ryori recipes called “Spinach Shiraae”. It is known as “Mashed Tofu Salad with Spinach”, or I would say more like “Spinach dressed in Mashed Tofu Sauce”.

Shojin Ryori is Buddhist cuisine followed by Buddhist monks in Japan. Under the Buddhist belief of Ahimsa (不殺生- “Fusessho” in Japanese). The ethical principle of not causing harm to other living things, the cuisine is made without meat, fish or other animal products. Yes, it is completely vegan. Please see here or here for more information about Shojin Ryori.

Spinach Shiraae, Shojin Ryori
Spinach Shiraae by a little bit of soy

Shiraae is 白和え in Japanese. Shira(白) means white. Ae (和え)means dressed or tossed. Shiraae is a vegetable side dish dressed with mashed tofu sauce, which is made of tofu, miso and roasted sesame. Obviously the white comes from the colour of Tofu. Spinach is the common vegetable for Shiraae. Green Beans are also nice for this dish. The silky tofu sauce with a touch of richness from miso and sesame matches with spinach. Very yummy.

Although it all might sound a bit dramatic, Spinach Shiraae is one of the common Japanese side dishes. My mum made this dish often for us too. Despite the poshness, the recipe is actually easy. The ingredients are also easily available in the major supermarket. Just a few tips here to follow…

Tofu – Silken Tofu

I recommend using Silken Tofu. This makes the tofu sauce smoother – better texture.

Spinach – English Spinach

Use English Spinach, not Baby Spinach or Spinach Salad Leaves. These are too soft for this dish.

Miso – Mild flavoured Miso, such as Shinshu Miso or Yellow Miso

I recommend using mild flavoured miso, not Red Miso (too salty) or White Miso (too sweet). If you have only Red or White Miso at home, they can be used. However, you will need to adjust the amount of other seasonings.

Remove Excess Water – Very Important

It is very important to remove excess water from Tofu, otherwise, the dish will be too watery and the taste will be bland. In the method below, you will see how to do it.

Eat Fresh!

I recommend making it on the day you eat. As time goes by, water will come out from the tofu, and therefore the dish will be soggy.

OK, here is the recipe of Spinach Shiraae! If you are looking for something different to serve, this is a great dish.

Hope you like it 🙂

Ingredients (serving 3-4 as a side dish)

150g Silken Tofu

250g English Spinach – wash very well to remove all dust and soil

1/2 Carrot – finely julienned

2 teaspoons of White Sesame – roasted

1/3 teaspoon of Tahini

1.5 teaspoons of Miso (mild flavoured, such as Shinshu Miso or Yellow Miso, is recommended)

1/2 teaspoon of Sugar

1/4 teaspoon of Soy Sauce

Method:

Prep for Tofu

  • Wrap the tofu with kitchen towels and microwave it for 1 minute.
  • Place the wrapped tofu (do not remove the kitchen towels) on a tray/plate. Place another tray or plate on top of the tofu. Leave it for about 20 minutes. This process is to remove excess water from tofu, so do not skip it.

Prep for English Spinach & Carrot

  • For spinach, wash very well and remove all dust and soil.
  • For carrot, cut into fine julienne.
  • Boil water in a medium size pot. Add a pinch of salt. Boil the julienned carrot for 30 seconds. Remove it from the pot and cool it down under cold water. Shake water off from the carrot and put it aside.
  • Boil spinach in the same boiling water for about 1 minute. Remove from the pot and cool it down under cold water. Squeeze excess water out from the spinach. Cut it into 4cm length. Put it aside.

Prep for White Sesame

  • Heat white sesame in a small frying-pan over a low heat (no oil required) until the sesame gets slightly coloured and crunchy. Transfer the sesame to a mortar. Using a pestle, roughly crush the roasted sesame. Put it aside.

Combine All Together and Serve

  • In a bowl, place tofu, tahini, miso and sugar. Using a whisk, mix all together until it gets smooth.
  • Squeeze the spinach again to remove any excess water. Add the spinach, carrot and roasted sesame into the tofu mixture. Combine together.
  • Add soy sauce. Mix together. Plate it into a small bowl to serve.
Spinachi Shiraae by a little bit of soy
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