Burmese Tofu (Shan Tofu) is a common food from the Shan minority in Burma (Myanmar) that is made with finely milled chickpea flour, turmeric and water. It is different to traditional Chinese tofu, which involves curdling soy milk and pressing the curds into a firm block. For Burmese tofu, the liquid is heated until it begins to coagulate and is then left to set into a soft block.
It is often served in a Tohu Thoke salad made with fragrant and aromatic ingredients like lime leaves, tamarind juice, coriander, crispy garlic & shallots and roasted peanuts. Many traditional recipes also include dried shrimp powder, which I’ve left out to keep it entirely plant-based.
For the Burmese Tofu
- 140g chickpea flour (also called besan) + 1/2 tbsp for toasting
- 1/3 tsp turmeric powder
For the Tohu Thoke Salad
- 3 garlic cloves
- 3 small round shallots
- 2 tbsp lime juice (1 lime)
- 100 ml groundnut oil for frying
- 20g tamarind pulp (or 1/2 tsp tamarind paste)
- 2 green bird's eye chillis
- 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp golden granulated sugar
- 20g coriander
- 1 kaffir lime leaf
- 2 tbsp roasted peanuts
- 1 tsp chilli sediment (from a jar of chilli oil)
- To make the tofu, add 300 ml of water to a saucepan and bring it to a boil. In the meantime, whisk the chickpea flour together with the turmeric, 1/2 tsp salt and another 300 ml water. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve directly into the boiling water to remove any clumps. Then turn down the heat and simmer, using a spatula to stir the mixture constantly, until it begins to pull away from the sides, looks glossier and doesn’t level out when you drizzle it onto itself. The simmering process should take around 10 minutes. Once ready, pour the mixture into a mould and refrigerate for 1 hour to set.
- For the salad, thinly slice two of the garlic cloves as well as all of the shallots. Transfer a third of the sliced shallots to a small bowl and mix together with the lime juice. Set aside to macerate. Add the remaining shallot slices to a small frying pan, separating them into rings as you go, and add enough groundnut oil to just about cover them. Then cook them over medium-low heat until they become deep golden (around 10 minutes). Transfer the shallot rings with a slotted spoon onto a few layers of kitchen paper and immediately sprinkle with a little salt. Now add the sliced garlic to the hot oil and cook until the slices just begin to turn golden (around 3 - 5 minutes), then remove them as well and season with salt. Turn off the heat and keep the oil for later. In the meantime, toast the remaining 1/2 tbsp of chickpea flour in a small frying pan until golden, and set aside.
- If you’re using tamarind pulp, let it soak in 60 ml boiling water for 10 minutes, then use your hands to loosen the flesh from the fibrous strings. Strain it through a fine sieve into a small bowl. Discard the pulp and keep the tamarind juice for later. If you’re using tamarind paste, add it to a small bowl along with 2 tbsp boiling water and stir until dissolved. Then set aside for later.
- To make the dressing, trim the bird’s eye chillis. Remove the seeds if you’d like it less hot, then slice them finely. Add the slices to a small mixing bowl along with 2 tbsp of the tamarind juice (or the dissolved paste), the soy sauce, sugar and 1 tbsp of the shallot & garlic oil. Grate in the remaining garlic clove and stir to combine.
- Finally, roughly chop the coriander, finely slice the lime leaf and crush or roughly chop the roasted peanuts.
- Remove the chickpea tofu from the mould and cut it into thin slices. Place the slices into a large mixing bowl along with the dressing, the macerated shallots along with their juice, the lime leaf and chilli sediment as well as most of the crispy shallots, crispy garlic, coriander and peanuts. Divide the salad over two plates and garnish with the remaining crispy shallots, crispy garlic, coriander, peanuts and a sprinkle of the toasted chickpea flour.