An Incredibly Flavourful Asian Salad with Traditional Chinese and Vietnamese Ingredients. This Five Spice Tofu Salad with Vietnamese Cha Lua Positively Lip Smacking and Moreish!
What is Five Spice Tofu?
Five spice tofu is pressed or firm tofu that is marinated and baked in five spice.
What Is Five Spice Made Of?
Five spice is a mixture of 5 powdered spices which consists of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, peppercorns, and star anise. It is extremely popular in Chinese cuisine and a versatile spice.
I love this tofu. Although when I fed some to Phen, she made a face and told me she wasn’t a fan. She gave me a dubious look as to whether it would work in the salad but curious at the same time.
I buy the pre-marinated ones from the supermarket. There’s really no need to make your own.
What Is Vietnamese Cha Lua?
Cha lua is a Vietnamese ham or sausage made of pork, potato starch, garlic, pepper, fish sauce and sometimes sugar. The pork is pounded into a paste, then wrapped very tightly into a cylindrical shape with banana leaves and boiled.
My first encounter with cha lua was when I moved to Melbourne and had my very first banh mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich with meats, pate, and pickled vegetables). When I bit into the crunch of the baguette and tasted that pork….. o.m.g……. so delicious.
Even more exciting was when I discovered it was a prominent ingredient in a lot of Vietnamese dishes. Best of all, I can just pick one up from the supermarket and have it any time I want.
Do I Have to Cook the Cha Lua?
The cha lua is already boiled so no further cooking is required. Just like you would with ham, I eat it as is.
Why I Love Five Spice Tofu Salad with Vietnamese Cha Lua
When I created this salad, I wanted quintessential Vietnamese flavours and textures. So, the vegetables are shredded to mimic the pickled vegetables that often accompanies Vietnamese dishes, use of fish sauce and of course the cha lua.
The addition of the five spice tofu was my spin on lacing the salad with those lovely flavours of cinnamon, cloves and fennel. When Phen tasted the salad, she was surprised how she could taste the five spice and how it all intertwined so well.
She said this was like a banh mi without the bun!
How to Make Five Spice Tofu Salad with Vietnamese Cha Lua
How to Prepare Fry the Wonton Skin
One of my favourite uses of wonton skin, is not to make wontons. Whoever thought to cut them into strips and then deep fry them, I’d love to give them a big hug. So clever and so easy! I like slicing them about 1 cm in width and then putting them into a pot of hot oil on medium heat for about 5 seconds.
I like folding my strip in a V shape so when it cooks, it generally stays in that shape. They turn brown quite quickly so do watch them. Season with salt and set it aside. They make the best crunchy toppers for almost anything!
How to Prepare the Salad
Remove the cha lua from the packet and discard the banana leaves. I always slice off the end as its not perfectly shaped. My daughter always waits patiently for that bit and devours it in seconds! Then slice it to a width of about 0.5 cm, lay the cut cha lua flat on the chopping board and cut into thin strips.
With the five spice tofu, slice them into thin strips too.
With a mandolin or a serrated peeler, shred the peeled carrots and white radish or daikon. Make sure you shred them as long as possible.
With the zucchini, I’m looking for a different texture from the carrot and white radish. So, I decided I would ribbon them instead to resemble fat noodles. Peel the zucchini as I think the skin is a little too bitter for this salad. Then with the peeler, slowly peel off long ribbons from one end to another.
With the chilli, we are not looking for a spicy salad. Just a hint of heat to elevate the flavours. Cut the chilli in half. Set the second half aside for the dressing. Then slice the chilli lengthwise on one side to open it up. With your knife, scrape off the seeds to help reduce the spiciness. Feel free to leave it if you do like the heat. Then lay the chilli flat on the chopping board and slice into thin long strips.
With the spring onion or scallion, chop only the green tops.
Roughly chop the leaf part of the coriander.
Apart from the deep-fried wonton skin, mix all the ingredients together.
How to Make the Fish Sauce Dressing
Mix the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, olive oil, fish sauce and sugar together.
Crush the garlic and add to the mixture.
With the remaining chilli, do the same as above. Cut it down lengthwise on one side and scrape off the seeds to reduce the heat. Add the chilli to the mixture.
Mix it all very well. Leave it for 30 minutes before serving so that the garlic and chilli infuses the dressing.
How to Assemble the Salad
Mix the dressing throughout the mixed salad ingredients. Then sprinkle the top of the salad with the deep-fried wonton skin and season with pepper.
For this tofu salad recipe you will need a shallow bowl as the dressing is of a watery consistency, so you need a serving bowl that will catch all the liquid.
We love this Asian inspired salad recipe as it draws on our Chinese and Vietnamese heritage. And being able to use traditional and everyday Asian ingredients to make a modern day salad is such a thrill! We hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do!
More Asian Inspired Salad Recipes:
Five Spice Tofu Salad with Vietnamese Cha Lua
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 garlic, crushed
- 250 g Vietnamese cha lua
- 75 g tofu, five spice
- 6 wonton skin (wrapper)
- 1 carrot
- 1 chilli pepper
- ½ zucchini
- ⅓ daikon
- ½ cup coriander, chopped
- ¼ cup spring onion, chopped
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- Do the dressing first as we need to let it sit for 30 minutes. In a bowl or jar, mix the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, olive oil, fish sauce and sugar together.
- Crush the garlic and add to the mixture.
- With the remaining chilli, slice it down one side to open the chilli to expose the inside. Using your knife, scrape off the seeds to reduce the heat. Add it to the mixture.
- Mix or shake well.
- Leave it for 30 minutes before serving so that the garlic and chilli infuses the dressing.
- Slice the Vietnamese cha lua to the width of about 0.5 cm. Lay the sliced cha lua flat on the chopping board and cut into thin strips.
- Slice the five-spice tofu into thin strips.
- Slice the wonton skin into strips of about 1 cm. Put some oil into a pot on medium heat. Drop the strips a few at a time and deep fry them. They turn brown in 5 seconds so watch them closely and remove them quickly. Grind some salt over them and set aside.
- Peel the carrots and white radish and shred it with a mandolin or serrated peeler.
- Cut the chilli in half (leave the other half for the dressing). Cut it open on one side and with your knife, scrape off the seeds. If you like the heat from the chilli, leave the seeds in. Then lay the chilli flat on the chopping board and slice into thin long strips.
- Peel the skin off the zucchini. Using the peeler, peel ribbons of zucchini so they are thin but wide.
- Chop the green tops of the spring onion.
- Roughly chop the leaf part of the coriander.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients (except the deep-fried wonton skin) together.
- Add at least 4 tbsp of the dressing to the salad (without the wonton skin).
- Toss it thoroughly.
- Sprinkle the salad with the deep-fried wonton skin on top. Season with freshly ground pepper and serve immediately.
- Place the salad in shallow bowl as the dressing is diluted.
- You can prepare all the ingredients much earlier in the day. Just dress and add wonton skin only when you’re ready to sit down for your meal.
- If you’re not able to find five spice tofu, any firm or extra firm tofu will work. Add ¼ tsp of five spice powder to the dressing.
- If you don’t have a mandolin, slice into thin julienne strips.
- This salad will yield 4 serves as a side or 2 serves as a light meal.