A watermelon salad was just what the doctor ordered when my stomach needed rest from rich, heavy food. Watermelon and feta salads are popular but this post is an Asian take on that classic combination. This watermelon salad has silken tofu marinated in a tangy, savoury dressing – it’s lighter with a beautiful balance of sour, sweet and salty flavours.
Why you should marinate the tofu
I like the soft, delicate, steamed- pudding-like-texture of silken tofu For my watermelon salad. It’s a healthy, vegan protein that sits light in the tummy and is easy to digest. Use the ‘firmest’ silken tofu you can find. Preparing silken tofu is the only thing you need to do a little carefully. Since it’s so tender, smooth and glossy, use a light touch while cubing it and ‘handle’ it as little as possible.
Marinating the tofu in thin dressing of dark, fish sauce (optional) or light soy, black Chinkiang vinegar, sugar and sesame oil, infuses the salad with umami and deep savoury flavours. The tofu drinks up the dressing. So, when you bite into these soft cubes, you get a burst of the salty tang, which along with the sweet watermelon, creates a perfect bite of salad. Chinkiang is a rice-based, dark vinegar with a hint of sweetness. Although, it’s not as sweet as balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar (ACV). If you don’t have Chinkiang on hand, you could substitute it with ACV, sherry vinegar, rice wine vinegar and even balsamic vinegar.
The intense sweet-tinged saltiness of syrup-like dark soy, the umami funk of fish sauce and the smoky notes of toasted sesame oil build layers of flavours that hit all parts of the mouth. These full flavours are the reason why it’s so satifying to eat this salad.
A salad of textures
This watermelon salad with marinated tofu is not only delicious, it also has a lot going on, texturally. The crunchy, juicy watermelon, the soft and velvety tofu, fresh and sharp scallions and crunchy peanuts; all together have a little circus going on on your tongue.To keep the textures intact, combine the ingredients and dress the salad just before eating. Only the tofu needs marination for about 30 minutes before you put together the salad.
Marinated Tofu and Watermelon Salad
- 600 g watermelon, seeds removed and cut into medium cubes
- 400 g silken tofu, cubed
- 2 tbsp peanuts, roasted and coarsely crushed
- 2-3 spring onions (scallions) , green parts only, chopped
For the dressing
- 1 fat garlic clove, grated
- 4 tbsp Chinkiang black vinegar
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp fish sauce (optional), or light soy sauce
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- To make the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients making sure that they're well combined.
- Place the tofu in a flat dish and pour half the dressing over, mixing very gently with a spoon to ensure all the tofu pieces are sitting in the dressing. Cover and set aside for 20 mins.
- Arrange the watermelon pieces all around a large platter or shallow bowl. Gently heap the tofu in the centre and sprinkles the scallions all over.
- Pour the remaining dressing all over the salad, scatter crushed peanuts and serve immediately.