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asian-style cucumber bean curd salad

Cold Spicy Cucumber Bean Curd Salad

ORIGINS: Cucumber bean curd salad is based on a dish from my childhood, a non-vegan recipe consisting of julienned cucumbers, sliced tofu sheets, thinly-sliced beef, mixed with a super umamiful dressing of garlic, soy sauce and chili oil. For this salad, I’ve left out the beef but it is still flavourful and super refreshing.

Cold Cucumber Bean Curd Salad

Spicy, garlicky cucumber bean curd salad is a classic Chinese cold dish. The bean curd in this refreshing, high-protein vegan recipe can be subbed by Zeroodles.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 1 bowl
Calories: 362kcal
Cost: $1.06

Ingredients

Salad Base

  • 85 g bean curd strips or 25 g dry soybean spaghetti (Zeroodles) see Notes
  • 1/2 English cucumber 200 g; see Notes for substitutions
  • 1/2 head garlic, about 6 cloves 30 g
  • 1–2 tbsp chili crisp or chili oil 12–25 g
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce or maggi sauce 30 g

Optional Toppings

  • 2 tsp shichimi togarashi
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped scallion

Instructions

  • Boil the bean curd strips or soybean spaghetti for 2 minutes, then drain. (No need to rinse.) Alternatively, you can place them with 1 cup of water into an Instant Pot and set on high pressure for 0 minutes, followed by Quick Release.
  • (Skip this step if you're using pre-sliced bean curd strips or spaghetti.) Slice the cooled bean curd sheets into ½- to ¼-inch wide strips. Add to a salad bowl.
  • Slice the cucumber into ½-inch thick pieces. Add to the salad bowl.
  • Pound garlic into a rough mash using a pestle and mortar. Alternatively, you can use a garlic press or just mince it up really fine, but I find mortar and pestle to be the quickest and easiest option.
  • Add garlic, chili crisp, and soy sauce to the bowl. Mix everything together.
  • Add any toppings if you wish!
cold cucumber bean curd salad

Recipe Notes

Instead of using the more traditional sliced bean curd sheets, which need to be kept refrigerated and used fresh, I often substitute the Zeroodle brand of soybean spaghetti in a pinch. They have a similar chew and texture and have the advantage of being shelf-stable because they’re dry. (Other Zeroodle products like the mung bean or black bean varieties work too.)

Instead of cucumber, I’ve also made this salad with lettuce and spinach. (I prefer to blanch them before slicing because I like the cooked versions better than raw—yeah I know.)

Step-by-Step Process

Boyfriend-Approved Salad!

As mentioned above, this is a dish I’ve been eating since childhood, but it usually contained meat. Feeling nostalgic recently, I tried making the vegan version simply by taking out the beef and turns out it still tastes fantastic. The beancurd strips / soybean zeroodles provide a chewy, proteinaceous texture with no need for any animal products.

In fact, my boyfriend, whom I have never known in three years to willingly eat a salad, enjoyed this and even wanted me to make it again! Ofc, the Lao Gan Ma chili crisp has to take most of the credit here—put that shit on ANYTHING and it’ll taste amazing.

Ingredient FAQ

A note on the chili sauce: as mentioned, the chili crisp is important for the spicy-savoury flavour here, but a chili oil can work too. You can use Lao Gan Ma, which is the most widely available and my favourite, or any other brand. I’ve probably used three or four different brands of chili crisp at this point and they all do the job, though I find myself returning to Lao Gan Ma.

Maggi or soy sauce?

In the past, I’ve always made cucumber bean curd salad with soy sauce. I never tried maggi sauce until a month or so ago when my mom turned me onto it. It’s a super flavourful sauce that looks exactly the same as soy sauce, but IMO tastes even better. Maggi is slightly less acidic than soy sauce and works really well in this recipe. I imagine that most people are more likely to have soy sauce than maggi in their pantry, but if you do have maggi, definitely give it a go in this recipe.

What’s shichimi togarashi?

It’s a Japanese spice mix. I’ve yet to find an Asian-style recipe that a sprinkle of shichimi togarashi doesn’t work on. I buy mine from Silk Road Spice Merchant (Canada-wide shipping!!). If you don’t have any, that’s fine too. The base ingredients (garlic, chili crisp, soy sauce) provide enough flavour already, which is why I noted that the toppings are optional.

Nutrition, Cost, and Emissions Information

Each bowl of salad is 362 cal, costs $1.06, and releases 415 gCO2e of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Calculation for full recipe as written:

Feel free to contact me for sources on the nutritional and carbon emissions information presented here. Note that I am not a nutritionist and guidelines on this page are provided for informational purposes only.

More Salad Recipes

I’ll be honest, there aren’t a whole lot of salad recipes on this site because we in this household are quite salad-hesitant. Not only do I not make many salads, finding one that’s good enough for posting is even more rare. However, here is one that I made and quite enjoyed recently: Olivie Salad, aka Russian Salad! It’s a totally different type of salad from this one: potatoey, tangy, and creamy. But go and give it a shot if you’d like a twist from regular old potato salad recipes!

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