Perfect Vegan Side Salad for Asian Inspired Meals. Simple Yet Full of Flavour, Caramelised Eggplant with Tofu and Asparagus Is Magically Tied Together with A Luxuriously Creamy Miso Dressing.
What is Miso Paste?
A staple in Japanese cooking, miso paste is made from fermented soya beans.
It is rich in umami flavour and a super versatile ingredient. Don’t think it’s just for soup! There are lots of mouthwatering ways to use miso paste to uplift the flavour and add depth including vegetables, seafood, tofu and chicken.
It is not only delicious but miso also delivers a variety of health benefits such as rich in essential minerals and a great source of vitamin B, E, K and folic acid. Being a fermented ingredient, miso keeps our gut healthy too!
What Is the Difference Between the Different Kinds of Miso?
Basic process of making miso paste is by cooking down soya beans, adding salt and a starter and then fermenting over a period of time. The time used in the fermentation period of miso paste is what will deliver the different varieties you find at the supermarket. The longer the fermentation, the darker the miso and more intense the flavour.
The most common one found is the white miso (shiro miso) which is the mildest variety with the shortest fermentation period. Although called “white” miso, it’s not actually white in colour. This miso has a light golden brown colour and more sweeter in flavour. Perfect for light broth, dressings and sauces.
We always have a tub of white miso paste in our fridge. My go-to midweek meal includes hot miso soup with silky udon noodles and whatever veggies I can find in the fridge. If anyone needs protein, I add a poached egg. Whipped up in literally 10 minutes. It’s healthy, quick and so rich in flavour. My family always says it hits the spot.
A longer fermentation process will yield a darker miso, often known as red miso (aka miso). It is more intense in flavour with a salty punch. It can be used as a pungent glaze or hearty miso sauce. The colours will be more deeper in your final dish compared to the milder white miso.
On the supermarket shelf, you will now find a dozen more varieties of miso paste which is a combination of the two kinds plus other delicious ingredients. Don’t be afraid. If ever unsure, grab the shiro miso and start with that.
Is Miso Vegan?
Traditionally miso paste is made purely from soya bean and salt. Therefore it is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
However, if you were having miso soup in a restaurant, do check the broth. Typically miso soup is made with dashi broth that includes bonito flakes. This would make it not suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Some places may use vegetable stock instead.
Why I love Asian Eggplant Salad with Miso Dressing
One of my favourite cooked Japanese dishes is nasu dengaku, miso eggplant. The sweet sticky miso glaze brushed over grilled eggplant delivers irresistible flavour. I love the deep contrast between the caramelised texture on the outside of the eggplant with the silky and creamy consistency on the inside. The grilled miso eggplant literally just melts in your mouth. I could eat it everyday.
And for so long, it never occurred to me that I could make it at home! It’s actually very simple. What I also realised is that I loved the miso sauce that was used to glaze the grilled eggplant. The savoury sweetness of miso glaze delivers so much flavour so I thought it might be a great way to incorporate it in a salad dressing.
How to Make Asian Eggplant Salad with Miso Dressing
How to Prepare Salad
For this Asian eggplant salad I used the grill pan to cook most ingredients. If you don’t have a grill pan, a flat pan would be fine too but grill pan will render more delicious charred caramelised texture than the normal flat pan.
Cut the eggplant into long wedges that are approximately 5 cm long and 2-3 cm thick, similar to thick chips (oooh, that just reminded me of thick eggplant chips with parmesan crust…sorry! got a bit distracted. HA!)
Brush eggplant with olive oil and season with salt. Seasoning eggplant with salt before cooking will help draw the excess water as well as seasoning it from the inside.
Wash asparagus, snap off the woody ends and give a little rinse under water.
Cut tofu into 1.5 cm thick slices and brush with olive oil on both sides.
Preheat a grill pan over medium – high heat.
Place eggplant on grill pan and grill for 1 ½ – 2 minutes each side until tender on inside and caramelised on the outside. Remove from pan and set aside for assembly.
Add asparagus and grill for approximately 3 minutes until tender and charred. Move asparagus around so that it is cooked properly. Remove from pan and set aside for assembly.
Add tofu and grill for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside for assembly.
Wash coriander well, trim roots and roughly chop leaves.
How to Make the Dressing
In a small bowl, add miso paste, tahini and warm water and mix well together to combine. Miso paste and tahini are thicker in consistency so using warm water will help dilute it and create a smoother paste. If you prefer a thinner consistency, adjust with little more water.
Add rice vinegar, maple syrup and sesame oil to paste and mix well.
If you miso based salad dressings, you’ll love this miso mayonnaise dressing in our Purple Kale Salad with Rainbow Chard.
How to Assemble the Salad
Use a large serving plate, layer grilled eggplant, tofu and asparagus randomly on plate.
Drizzle half the miso dressing over vegan tofu salad and keep the remaining in a small bowl on the side. As this miso dressing is luxuriously creamy, I feel it can be a bit overwhelming if the salad is fully dressed. I feel it is better to serve on the side where guests can dip their vegetables into the miso dressing.
To serve, sprinkle chopped coriander and pepitas over salad.
A simple and delicious vegan tofu salad that delivers earthy caramelised flavours. What I love is how hearty this salad feels as well. The eggplant and tofu creates a “meaty’ texture (if that makes sense!) whilst asparagus, coriander and pepitas gives freshness and crunch. A great side dish that pairs well with a humble bowl of hot udon noodles with a savoury broth.
This miso eggplant salad is a great addition to your midweek repertoire as it is quick, tasty and definitely feels healthy!
More Vegan Salad Recipes:
Asian Eggplant Salad with Miso Dressing
- Cut the eggplant into long wedges that are approximately 5 cm long and 2-3 cm thick. Brush eggplant with olive oil and season with salt.
- Wash asparagus, snap off the woody ends and give a little rinse under water.
- Cut tofu into 1.5 cm thick slices and brush with olive oil on both sides.
- Preheat a grill pan over medium - high heat.
- Place eggplant on grill pan and grill for 1 ½ - 2 minutes each side until tender on inside and caramelised on the outside. Remove from pan and set aside for assembly.
- Add asparagus and grill for approximately 3 minutes until tender and charred. Remove from pan and set aside for assembly.
- Add tofu and grill for approximately 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and set aside for assembly.
- Wash coriander well, trim roots and roughly chop leaves.
- In a small mixing bowl add miso paste, tahini and warm water and mix well together to combine.
- Add rice wine vinegar, maple syrup and sesame oil to paste and mix well.
- Use a large serving plate, layer grilled eggplant, tofu and asparagus randomly on plate.
- Drizzle half the miso dressing over salad and keep the remaining in a small bowl on the side.
- To serve, sprinkle chopped coriander and pepitas over salad.
- Miso paste and tahini are thick therefore using warm water will help dilute and create smoother consistency.
- Don’t dress the salad with dressing as it may overwhelm the salad. Use half the dressing and keep the other half in small bowl for dipping.
- A great vegetarian side salad with warm bowl of noodles