I already knew I loved Thai and Lao salads. The dressing alone—a mix of lime, fish sauce, sugar, chile, and fresh herbs—does something spectacular to my brain, especially when it's really hot outside. But usually there's some kind of meat involved. So, how would the dish work with tofu and shiitakes? I never would have given it a shot had Nancie McDermott not recommended the combo in Food & Wine.
Though it doesn't quite have the same fierce freshness as larb, it's still a worthy variation, especially if you need something vegetarian for dinner. Thanks to a good helping of soy sauce, the mushrooms come out even meatier than usual. You do need to make sure the green beans are very tender, otherwise they'll throw everything off. I still think some toasted rice powder would have improved the dish, but this is definitely worth the effort.
- ½ pound firm tofu, halved crosswise
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
- 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 red Thai chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced ½-inch thick
- ¼ pound thin green beans, sliced on the diagonal into ⅓-inch lengths
- 3 scallions, minced
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- ¼ cup mint, chopped
- 4 lettuce leaves (Boston, green leaf, romaine)
Place the two tofu halves on a rimmed baking sheet, and top with another baking sheet. Weigh the baking sheet down with two large cans, and set aside for 30 minutes. Drain the tofu, and then chop into ½-inch pieces.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, sugar, and crushed red pepper.
Warm the oil in a non-stick skillet set over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sliced shiitakes, and cook until starting to soften, about one minute. Reduce heat to medium, and pour in the remaining two tablespoons of soy sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shiitakes are tender, two to three minutes. Immediately transfer mushrooms to the large bowl with the dressing.
Add the tofu, green beans, scallions, shallot, cilantro, and mint to the bowl. Carefully toss.
Place one lettuce leaf on four plates. Top each with a quarter of the mushroom mixture. Serve.