Spicy Thai Tofu & Noodle Salad

Probably one of the first recipes I posted, back in 2011, updated with a much better photo!
The coriander seed I planted in pots on the windowsill a month ago is ready for harvesting before it goes to seed so I thought I would treat Dad & I to a spicy Thai noodle salad. Plus the fact the tofu in the fridge was 3 days past it's use by date.

This noodle salad is loosely based on a Spicy Glass Noodle Salad (Yam Wun Sen) and Papaya Salad (Som Tam) we learnt in a Thai Cookery Class in Chang Mai in 1999, taking a belated Gap Year at the age of 30. We do have copies of the recipes that accompanied the class, but years of just trying to put this together from memory and English ingredients have evolved the salad.

This is quite literally a changeable feast depending on what protein you want to put with it (or not) as well as what fresh herbs you have available. Dried chilli strengths also vary enormously as I have learnt! So below is last night's ingredients with a note below that of all the other variations I have experimented with so far.

Serves a hearty 2 as a main

3 nests rice or egg noodles
1/2 a 396g packet Cauldron tofu
2 large sticks of celery
1 small onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 tomato or 4-5 cherry tomatoes
Juice of 1 lime, or lemon
5 tbsp thai fish sauce (vegan fish sauce is available)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp extra strong chilli flakes - beware this was almost painfully hot like the genuine Thai salad. You may wish to start with a lot less and build up.
large handful coriander of mint

I think it best to let all the ingredients apart from the noodles and the coriander marinate together for as long as possible so before the kids bath I thinly sliced the celery, onion, tomato, and garlic and put them in a large mixing bowl together with all the liquid ingredients and the chilli. Cube the tofu and add the tofu giving everything a good mix. If using mint you can shred this and add it to the marinading mixture but I don't think coriander keeps it's colour or texture if you add it early. When ever you pass just give it a quick mix to ensure the all the onions start to soften and mellow. The salty fish sauce drawns out more liquid from the onion and tomato but this is fine as the noodles will absorb a lot of juices.

When ready to eat, cook the noodles according to the packet's instructions.  Drain, return to the pan and run in cold water, turning the noodles with your hands until they feel cool. Drain. Dreaming of a long hot summer and thinking of water conservation, have a bucket or washing up bowl to hand and all the boiling and rinsing water can be drained onto this and used in the garden later. At this stage I tend to snip the noodles in the colander with a large pair of scissors to about 3-5cm in length as this mixes better with the large tofu lumps but by all means try without snipping if you want.

Finely chop the coriander including the stalks and stir in.

  • Glass noodles - you can use fine or fat noodles. We used to get fat ones from a Chinese Supermarket but I used to find it hard to stop them sticking together. Egg noodles are more forgiving if left!
  • 100g minced chicken, pork, beef, lamb, or chopped unsalted peanuts (or even crunchy peanut butter) instead of tofu. Or even with no protein, just vegetables and herbs.
  • Mint leaves instead of coriander - mint is more widely used in Vietnamese cookery
  • Lime instead of lemon - this was used in the original Thai recipe but lemons are more easily available and juicer