Pan fried sticky tofu topped on a bed of fresh and crunchy glass noodle salad, this is a stunning vegan Asian salad bowl that should top your meal plan every week.
Why You’ll Love Glass Noodle Salad
This is another one of my tricks to get my son to eat more plant-based meals. This sticky tofu recipe has to be one of the easiest.
Plain tofu is very bland, and for my son, he doesn’t like the mushy texture. However, tofu is the perfect vehicle to carry other flavours, and the porous texture absorbs it all in like a sponge.
So when you add savoury soy sauce, sweet maple syrup and aromatic ginger into the mix, what’s there not to like?
Serving sticky tofu on top of a bed of fresh glass noodle salad with crunchy wombok, green apple, carrot and chilli, together the flavours mingle perfectly.
Moorish sweet-salty flavours, sticky tofu is wonderful on its own or piled on top of this glass noodle salad. You can prep ahead and easily cook after work.
I love this Asian noodle salad as a meal but can easily share with the family with Asian-inspired mains.
What are Glass Noodles?
There are quite a few names for glass noodles. In Cantonese, we call it fensi. I’ve seen it also called cellophane noodles, mung bean vermicelli, dangmyeon in Korea and tanghoon in Malaysia.
The name glass noodles or cellophane noodles comes from their appearance. The dried white noodles turn into glass-like transparency when soaked.
Glass noodles from China are typically made from mung bean starch, whilst Korean dangmyeon is made from sweet potato starch. You can also find it made from arrowroot or tapioca starch, but mung bean and sweet potato are the most common.
Don’t confuse it with rice vermicelli which is made with rice flour. Glass noodles will have a slightly more chewy texture than rice vermicelli which is more soft and silky.
How To Cook Glass Noodles
A versatile ingredient and widely used in many different Asian cuisines.
You can use glass noodles in salads, soup, hot pots, stir-fry, wrapped in spring rolls or even dumplings. Glass noodles are the base for the popular Korean noodle dish, japchae.
It does not take long to cook glass noodles. I normally just soak in hot water for a few minutes and then drain. Try not to overcook as they become very soft and break.
Are Glass Noodles Gluten Free?
Yes, glass noodles are gluten free. As they are made from mung bean or sweet potato starch and water, there is no wheat in the production of glass noodles.
What Kind of Tofu to Use for This Recipe?
Where do you even start with the different varieties of tofu and tofu products? I think that is a whole website in itself.
Broadly speaking, you can categorise tofu into the different textures – silken, regular, firm and extra firm. The different types of tofu differ on how much liquid is extracted from the soybeans during production. Firmer tofus will have less water, whilst soft tofu will have more water content and is wobbly in texture.
For this sticky tofu recipe, I chose firm tofu. I pan fry the tofu; therefore, to have softer or silken tofu would not work. Firm tofu will still absorb all the delicious sweet-savoury marinade and create a delicious sticky tofu recipe.
Flavour/Texture: Everything works with contrasting textures and flavours. I love the crunch of the glass noodle salad against the tofu.
The combination of glass noodles, apple, wombok and carrots is wonderfully refreshing. Whilst the sticky tofu adds the punch of aromatic sweet, savoury flavour. The glass noodle salad provides a mild background to carry the bold flavours of the sticky tofu.
Ease: Nothing overly complicated to complete in this salad. The sticky tofu takes a little more care in cooking, but otherwise, the glass noodle salad component is mainly chopping.
Time: The longest part is the marinating of tofu. 20 minutes should be sufficient for the tofu to take on flavours, but if you have more time, prep it earlier and let the tofu sit longer to fully absorb the sauce.
Soy sauce: Asian meals would not be the same without soy sauce—a pantry staple for all. Light soy sauce is what you need in this recipe.
Kecap manis: Originating from Indonesia, kecap manis is a sweet aromatic soy sauce that is darker in colour and thicker in consistency. The added palm sugar creates a molasses-like flavour.
Popular pantry staple in South Asian cooking and available in most large supermarkets or your local Asian grocery store.
Water: to help create volume and balance the salty flavours.
Maple syrup: To help create the “sticky” in sticky tofu. Together with kecap manis, maple syrup will caramelise when we pan fry the sticky tofu.
Grated ginger: Quintessential Asian flavour, ginger adds aromatic flavour to the sticky tofu.
Firm tofu: You can purchase tofu pretty much in most supermarkets or Asian grocery stores. Select a firm tofu as this will make frying a lot easier. Firm tofu was also used in our Five Spice Tofu Salad with Vietnamese Ham or Gochujang Chicken Salad with Noodles and Tofu.
Oil: Select your choice of neutral flavour oil frying tofu. Avocado, grapeseed or vegetable oil works fine.
Glass noodles: Also known as cellophane noodles or green bean vermicelli, glass noodles are sold dried and can be kept in the pantry for a long time.
There is not much cooking involved other than soaking in boiling water to reconstitute until they are transparent and soft enough to eat.
Wombok leaves: you only need a few leaves for this recipe. Keep the remaining wombok for other recipes during the week. See our Spicy Roasted Broccoli Cauliflower Salad (insert link) recipe for more ideas.
Green apple: I love adding green apple to my Asian slaws. It adds crunch, freshness and a slight tang which balances the salty flavours so well.
Carrot: Adding flavour and colour, a medium sized carrot will be sufficient for this recipe.
Red chilli: I like to offset the sweet stickiness of tofu marinade with some heat. Depending on how spicy you want, you can use one long red chilli or 2 smaller hot chillis.
Sesame seeds: When you toast sesame seeds, there is a distinct nutty flavour drawn out and perfect in many Asian noodle salads. I love the aromas when I am toasting sesame seeds.
Rice vinegar: Popular choice for Asian style salad dressings. You can also use white vinegar if you don’t have rice vinegar.
Sesame oil: I love the aromatic flavours of sesame oil. You don’t need much to create the depth.
How To Make Sticky Tofu
Remove tofu from packaging and slice into 4-5cm squares depending on the size of your block.
Using a medium sized mixing bowl, add marinade ingredients including soy sauce, kecap manis, water and maple syrup.
Grate 2cm ginger (1 tbsp) into the marinade.
Mix marinade until maple syrup and kecap manis combines.
Place cut tofu into marinade. Make sure all the pieces are covered by the marinade.
Leave tofu to stand for at least 20 minutes. You can also prep ahead and leave overnight. The longer the marinade, the more intense the flavour.
Remove tofu from marinade.
Heat large frying pan over medium-hot heat, add oil.
Once hot, add marinated tofu cubes into frypan and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
You may need to do it in batches to avoid overcrowding. If there are too many pieces of tofu in the pan, liquid will escape, and it will start to stew versus frying.
Remove and repeat until all tofu cubes are cooked.
Reduce the heat on the fry pan and then pour the remaining marinade into pan. Over medium heat, reduce the marinade into a semi-thick sauce. This may take 4-5 minutes.
How To Prepare The Salad
Follow instructions on the glass noodles packaging to cook glass noodles.
Drain glass noodles from hot water and set aside for assembly.
Wash and thinly slice wombok leaves.
Cut green apple into matchsticks. Place matchsticks into a bowl of salted cold water to stop it from turning brown.
Peel and shred carrot into matchsticks. I used my julienne peeler, but whatever tool is fine.
Cut chilli into small rounds.
Wash and roughly chop coriander.
Over medium heat, toast sesame seeds in fry pan until golden brown.
How To Make Salad Dressing
This is a very simple dressing, just enough to coat the glass noodle salad.
Mix soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil until combined.
How To Assemble Salad
You can serve the glass noodle salad individually or over a large sharing dish.
In a large mixing bowl, add cooked glass noodles, wombok, green apple, carrot, coriander, half the chilli and toasted sesame seeds.
Add salad dressing into the glass noodle salad and toss together. Make sure the liquid is well absorbed by the glass noodles.
If serving individually, divide glass noodle salad into equal portions or place on a large sharing dish.
Top glass noodle salad with sticky tofu.
Drizzle the reduced marinade over the sticky tofu.
Scatter with toasted sesame seeds and chilli to serve.
Variations and Substitutions
Main meal or side dish: This glass noodle salad can easily be a vegan noodle main meal for 4 people. As a side dish, you can add other Asian-inspired dishes like steamed fish, garlic prawns or stir-fried vegetables.
Kecap manis substitute: If you don’t have kecap manis on hand, you can create your own version by reducing ¼ cup soy sauce with ¼ cup brown sugar to create a thick sweet consistency.
Adjust the chilli: As in all our recipes, adjust the chilli heat to your liking.
Gluten free option: To create a gluten free salad, swap soy sauce with tamari and make sure your kecap manis is a gluten free brand.
Maple syrup substitutes: Rice syrup or honey (if you don’t need a vegan salad) are suitable alternatives for maple syrup.
Wombok replacement: Shredded white cabbage can substitute for wombok leaves. You will need approximately 1 cup.
Great Mains for This Salad
Black Pepper Chicken: Juicy and flavourful cubed chicken breasts with intensely flavoured black pepper sauce. Throw in some crisp peppers and crunchy celery, so simple and easy to make and this black pepper chicken is the perfect pairing with this Asian noodle salad!
Japanese Grilled Turkey Skewers: Japanese grilled turkey skewers are a remake of the classic “yakitori”. These turkey skewers are healthy, packed full of flavour, and perfect for the summer grilling season. It pairs perfectly with the glass noodle salad in a soy sesame dressing.
Grilled Mackerel: This grilled mackerel is a great match for a refreshing glass noodle salad. The soy and mirin glaze on the mackerel shares a similar flavour profile to the soy and sesame dressing. The cold noodles and fresh veggies will cut through the meaty savouriness of the mackerel.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can prepare this glass noodle salad recipe ahead of time, but best to assemble and dress when ready to serve.
Yes, you can definitely serve the sticky tofu cold. However, I do feel it is best served warm on top of the glass noodle salad. If you are prepping ahead, reheat over the pan or microwave gently before serving.
It is best to consume tofu soon after you opened it. However, it will store well in the fridge for a few days as long as you store it properly.
I always thought you store leftover tofu in the liquid that you purchase it in. How wrong was I! Take any leftover tofu and place it in a clean container and fill with cold water. Store in fridge. Change the water daily to preserve the tofu’s freshness.
You can freeze, but when you defrost, it can get spongy and may change colour. Extra firm tofu will be ok, but softer tofu will not do very well. I think it best to consume tofu fresh.
Asian noodle salad as it’s best with sweet sticky tofu combined with a crunchy glass noodle salad. This is a great dish to prepare for light dinners or serve with flavourful Asian style mains. My son definitely enjoys tofu now.
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Glass Noodle Salad with Sticky Tofu
- 450 g tofu, firm
- 150 g noodles, glass
- 4 wombok, leaves
- ½ green apple
- 1 carrot
- 1 red chillies
- 1 cup coriander, roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp sesame seeds
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Slice tofu into 4-5 cm squares depending on the size of your block.
- Add marinade ingredients to a mixing bowl, including soy sauce, kecap manis, water and maple syrup.
- Grate 2 cm ginger (1 tbsp) into the marinade.
- Mix marinade until maple syrup and kecap manis combines.
- Place cut tofu into marinade. Make sure all the pieces are covered by the marinade.
- Leave tofu in marinade to stand for at least 20 minutes.
- Remove tofu from marinade. Keep the marinade as dressing salad later.
- Heat large frying pan over medium-hot heat, add oil.
- Once hot, add marinated tofu cubes into fry pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove and repeat until all tofu cubes are cooked.
- Follow instructions on the glass noodles packaging to cook glass noodles.
- Wash and thinly slice wombok leaves.
- Cut green apple into matchsticks. Place matchsticks into a bowl of salted cold water to stop it from turning brown.
- Peel and shred carrot into matchsticks.
- Cut chilli into small rounds.
- Wash and roughly chop coriander to yield 1 cup.
- Over medium heat, toast sesame seeds in fry pan until golden brown.
- Mix soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil until combined.
- In a large mixing bowl, add cooked glass noodles, wombok, green apple, carrot, coriander, half the chilli and half the toasted sesame seeds.
- Add salad dressing into the glass noodle salad and toss together. Make sure the liquid is well absorbed by the glass noodles.
- If serving individually, divide glass noodle salad into equal portions or place on a large sharing dish.
- Top glass noodle salad with pan-fried sticky tofu.
- Drizzle with reduced marinade sauce over the sticky tofu.
- Scatter with toasted sesame seeds and chilli to serve
- If you don’t have kecap manis on hand, you can create your own version by reducing ¼ cup soy sauce with ¼ cup brown sugar to create a thick sweet consistency.
- Adjust the chilli heat to your liking.
- For a gluten free option, swap soy sauce with tamari and make sure your kecap manis is a gluten free brand.
- Rice syrup or honey (if you don’t need a vegan salad) are suitable alternatives for maple syrup.
- Shredded white cabbage can substitute for wombok leaves. You will need approximately 1 cup.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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