Bold spicy Asian flavours that will definitely get your taste buds moving in this Chinese Tofu Skin Salad. Delicious texture with shredded tofu skin noodles, crunchy cucumber and cauliflower mixed with a Chinese chili oil and black vinegar dressing that is spicy, sweet and sharp all at the same time.
- Why You’ll Love This Salad
- Chinese Cold Dishes and Appetisers
- What is Tofu Skin?
- How to Use Tofu Skin
- Recipe Overview
- Variations and Substitutions
- How to Prepare the Pressed Tofu Skin
- How to Prepare the Salad
- How to Make Chilli Black Vinegar Dressing
- How to Assemble the Salad
- What To Eat With Tofu Skin Salad
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why You’ll Love This Salad
So I am not going to take 100% credit for this spicy tofu skin salad because it was my hubby who discovered the two main ingredients in it – pressed tofu skin (shredded tofu skin noodles) and Lao Gan Ma Chili oil.
He returned home from the local Asian grocery store with two new products and made a simple classic Chinese cold tofu salad recipe by mixing pressed tofu skin noodles, cucumber, coriander and Lao Gan Ma chili oil together.
My whole family loved the tofu skin recipe. The interesting texture of the shredded tofu skin mixed with cucumber and coriander was delicious. Together with Lao Gan Ma chili oil, the flavours were addictive.
Whilst I did enjoy my hubby’s version (and I am not lying! I ask him to make his version all the time.) I wanted to give his shredded tofu skin salad bolder flavours and more texture.
So I created my version of Chinese tofu skin salad recipe with crunchy cauliflower florets, cucumber, spring onion and a punchy black vinegar chili dressing.
The salad dressing still very much uses Lao Gan Ma chili oil just like our Spicy Chicken Salad but I combined with an intense Chinese black vinegar and sweet brown sugar to mellow out the spice and bring a caramel sweetness to the tofu skin salad.
Hot, sweet, sour and crunchy in one bite. Versatile vegan tofu recipe to serve during warmer months but I can easily eat this during the winter with a hot bowl of noodles or steamed rice.
Chinese Cold Dishes and Appetisers
As much as I call this tofu skin recipe a salad, typically speaking Chinese would call this style of dish liangcai (凉菜), which translates to chilled appetiser or side dish.
Similar to my cold silken tofu recipe, many of these dishes are served at the start of the meal to stimulate the appetite.
I love Chinese cold dishes because they are simple but full of zesty savoury flavours. Classic Chinese cold dishes include tofu skin salad, cold silken tofu, smashed cucumber, century eggs with ginger, drunken chicken, wood ear mushroom salad and lotus roots salad.
What is Tofu Skin?
In researching what tofu skin is, I found there are two types of tofu products that carry the same name.
Fuzhu / Yuba
The first type of tofu skin is also called fuzhu, yuba or beancurd skin. We don’t normally refer to this product as tofu skin. Yuba or beancurd skin is definitely more commonly used.
This type of tofu skin is a popular by-product of boiling soymilk. Tofu skin is made from the film that is formed on the surface of soymilk when boiling and then skimmed off. It is normally dried but you can also find it fresh.
I find the texture to be chewy in cooking but there is a softer version which can be silky smooth in cooking.
Pressed Tofu Skin
Another tofu skin product which is the one used in this tofu skin recipe, is fresh pressed tofu skin sheets. This is formed from pressing firm tofu into super thin sheets. This variety can be labelled tofu, bean curd or baiye sheets.
Pressed tofu skin has a firmer texture, similar to five spiced firm tofu and best cut into thin strips to use like tofu noodles.
Similar to tofu, both varieties of tofu skin are high in plant-based protein but low in carbs and fat making it very popular in vegan and vegetarian diets.
A rich source of iron, calcium, and other essential vitamins and minerals, has said consuming soy-based products regularly may help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and lower bad cholesterol.
Both varieties of tofu skin are versatile ingredients to use especially in vegan salad recipes.
How to Use Tofu Skin
Yuba or dried tofu skin is very popular in Chinese cooking. You can find it in most Asian grocery stores. In order to use them, you need to soak in water and rehydrate.
Dried tofu skin is extremely versatile and can be used in various cooking styles. Growing up, I would often eat yuba in Chinese stews or braised hot pots.
And one of my favourite Chinese desserts is dried tofu skin with barley and ginkgo nut sweet soup. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea but for me this is pure Cantonese comfort food.
You can also soak large beancurd skin sheets and then use it as wraps for mince meat or vegetarian mixture and then fried, creating a delicious beancurd style spring roll. You can also quickly fry them and eat as a snack or add crunch to a dish. Yuba is also great in salads.
For me, pressed tofu skin is a relatively new product. More commonly used in Northern Chinese cuisine, pressed tofu skin is popular in cold salads, stir-fries and hot pots.
You can buy pressed tofu skin in sheets or already shredded. Some people would call this shredded tofu noodles 豆腐丝.
Pressed tofu skin does a great job in soaking up flavours so don’t be afraid to use bolder flavours including chili.
Flavour/Texture: This tofu skin salad recipe is a flavour bomb. The shredded tofu skin, cucumber and cauliflower are there to act as a vehicle for the black vinegar chili dressing.
The brown sugar mixed with black vinegar creates a caramel-like flavour and beautiful sweet tartness. With the added Chinese chili oil, the heat then explodes in your mouth. Of course, you can adjust according to your taste but we do love it spicy!
Ease: This is an easy shredded tofu skin salad to make. Barely any cooking involved.
Time: You can easily make this easy Asian salad within 15 minutes. I normally recommend leaving it in the fridge for a bit longer so the tofu skin noodles can absorb the flavours but you can serve immediately.
These are the ingredients you need for Spicy Chinese Tofu Skin Salad:
Tofu skin: Pressed tofu skin or bean curd sheet is normally found in the fridge section at your local Asian grocery store in a vacuum package. You can purchase packets of shredded tofu skin (like tofu noodles) or in sheets where you thinly slice yourself. Either one is fine.
Cauliflower: I love cauliflower in salads. It adds texture and a delicate crunch. You can use raw or quickly blanched cauliflower florets in this tofu skin recipe.
Chinese black vinegar: I find Chinese black vinegar not only seasons it but adds depth and an earthy umami profile. The sharp tangy flavours are a perfect balance to chili oil.
Soy sauce: There are many different types of soy sauces but for this recipe we need the regular or light soy sauce. A good quality light soy sauce adds salty flavours to the black vinegar dressing.
Brown sugar: You cannot balance hot and sour without sweet. Brown sugar compliments the dark Chinese black vinegar well. The caramel flavours of brown sugar is a perfect match to the malt flavours in Chinese black vinegar.
Sesame oil: The aroma of sesame oil is second to none. It adds a nutty fragrance to the dish that is delicious.
Chili oil: We have used Lao Gan Ma chili oil in this recipe but you can use your own homemade Chinese chili oil or any other brands.
Variations and Substitutions
Substitute tofu skin: If you can’t find pressed tofu skin at your local Asian grocer, you can use firm tofu and thinly slice into long strips or noodle like. Typically you will find plain firm tofu or five spice tofu which are both fine to use.
Raw cauliflower: You can actually use raw cauliflower florets in this salad but it can be difficult for some people to digest raw cauliflower so give them a quick blanche to cook through but still keep its crunch. If you are happy for raw cauliflower, don’t need to blanch cauliflower in the recipe.
Other vegetables to use in this salad: Don’t be afraid to make this salad your own! I have added other raw vegetables and ingredients with tofu skin noodles and it is delicious. Try these combinations:
- shredded carrot
- shredded daikon
- chopped coriander
- finely sliced red onion
- toasted sesame seeds or peanuts
- fried garlic
Lao Gan Ma chili oil variation: You can use your own homemade Chinese chili oil or any other brands.
There are different versions of Lao Gan Ma chili oil as well. You can use your favourite type to be honest. I think the regular chili oil or chili crisp will work the best.
Nut-free option: Lao Gan Ma chili oil contains nuts so please use another brand of chili oil if you need a nut free salad.
Step by step instructions for how to make Spicy Chinese Tofu Skin Salad:
How to Prepare the Pressed Tofu Skin
Remove pressed tofu skin from packaging, give it a quick rinse under water.
Thinly slice the block of tofu skin into thin strips. Mine were probably 0.5cm thick.
The tofu skin strips may still be stuck together. Use your hands and pull them apart so you have a pile of what looks like tofu skin noodles.
If you have bought shredded tofu skin or tofu noodles, just pull apart ready for assembling.
How to Prepare the Salad
Peel the cucumber and trim the ends. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and then again so you have 4 long quarters.
If you have a cucumber that has a lot of seeds, I would trim some of it off because you don’t want the salad to be too wet.
Then cut the cucumber diagonally about 1-1.5cm apart.
Wash cauliflower and trim the stem as close to the florets.
Using a small knife, cut the florets out. Some florets may still be a bit big so cut those in half. You can also use your hands and break the florets up.
Have a bowl of ice water ready before blanching the cauliflower. By plunging the cauliflower straight into ice cold water after boiling will stop it from further cooking and keep its crunch.
Bring a medium size pot of water to boil, add cauliflower florets and boil for 2 minutes. Drain cauliflower florets and add straight to ice cold water to cool down.
Leave for about 2 minutes and then drain from cold water. Set aside for assembly.
Wash and chop 2 sprigs of spring onion into 0.5cm rounds.
How to Make Chilli Black Vinegar Dressing
In a small bowl add black vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and warm water.
Mix well together until sugar dissolves.
Taste the dressing to make sure the balance between sweet, sour and salt is right for your palette. Adjust as required.
Add Chinese chili oil, crushed garlic and grated ginger to the vinegar mixture and mix well together. Taste and adjust if you prefer more spicy.
How to Assemble the Salad
In a mixing bowl, add tofu skin noodles, cucumber and cauliflower together.
Mix together with dressing.
Make sure all the veggies and tofu skin are fully coated with dressing. Scatter with chopped spring onion and toss together.
Pop salad into the fridge and let the salad marinate in the dressing for about 15 minutes before serving.
Tumble into a large serving bowl. Serve as a cold side dish with rice, noodles or grilled fish.
What To Eat With Tofu Skin Salad
What to serve with Spicy Chinese Tofu Skin Salad? Try these delicious Chinese recipes.
Usually made with beef but if you’re not eating red meat, this version of chicken with spicy black bean sauce is just as good with big and bold flavours. For noodle lovers, this Chinese lo mein recipe will definitely hit the spot.
Nothing beats a good stir fry and you can have this ginger beef recipe anytime of the week! One of all my personal all time favourites.
Frequently Asked Questions
Unopened pressed tofu skin can be kept in the fridge until their use by date but once opened it is best to consume the tofu skin immediately.
You are probably thinking what’s this Lao Gan Ma (老干妈) chili oil you keep mentioning in this cold tofu salad recipe?
It is a very popular brand of Chinese chili oil originated in Guizhou, China. Founded by a lady called Tao Huabi, Lao Gan Ma translates to godmother in Chinese. And yes, Tao Huabi, is the lady pictured on all the jars of Lao Gan Ma chili oil.
Lao Gan Ma chili oil has many different varieties but the one we used is their signature version made with chili, garlic, onions, fermented soybeans and peanuts.
The other popular version is the Lao Gan Ma spicy chili crisp. Similar ingredients to the chili oil but has a more distinct “crisp” texture.
There is a delicious kick in spice but also full of flavour. A great condiment for noodles, rice and of course salads. Promised this is not a sponsored post. I just love the flavours of Lao Gan Ma Chili oil.
Yes, definitely a salad you can prepare in advance and serve when you need it. The tofu skin, cucumber and cauliflower will continue to absorb the black vinegar salad dressing over time.
You only need about 2 cups of small cauliflower florets in this cold tofu salad recipe. Depending on the size of your cauliflower, you most likely will have some leftovers.
Store the rest for later in the week and try our other delicious cauliflower recipes like our
Pomegranate Cauliflower Salad with Chestnuts, Air Fryer Cauliflower and Curried Vegan Cauliflower Steaks.
This is not a salad that hides in the background. Bold, spicy Asian flavours mingled with shredded tofu noodles that definitely get your taste buds moving.
I just love the balance of the four S’s – sweet, sour, savoury and spicy in the black vinegar chili dressing and to have delicious texture with shredded tofu skin, cucumber and cauliflower in the salad.
If you love a good dose of chili and a hit of delicious tangy flavours, this is the salad for you.
More Asian Salad Recipes
Spicy Chinese Tofu Skin Salad
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- Rinse tofu and thinly slice the block of tofu skin into thin strips approximately 0.5cm thick. Use your hands and pull tofu skin noodles apart so you have a pile of what looks like tofu skin noodles. Set aside for assembly.
- Peel the cucumber and trim the ends. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and then again so you have 4 long quarters. Cut the cucumber diagonally about 1-1.5cm apart.
- Cut cauliflower into even florets.Bring a medium size pot of water to boil, add cauliflower florets and boil for 2 minutes. Drain cauliflower florets and add straight to ice cold water to cool down. Leave for about 2 minutes and then drain from cold water. Set aside for assembly.
- Wash and chop 2 sprigs of scallion (spring onion) into 0.5cm rounds.
- In a small bowl add black vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and warm water.
- Mix well together until sugar dissolves.
- Add chili oil, crushed garlic and grated ginger and mix well together.
- Taste and adjust if you prefer more spicy.
- In a mixing bowl, add tofu skin, cucumber and cauliflower together.
- Mix together with dressing. Make sure all the veggies and tofu skin are fully coated with dressing.
- Scatter with chopped scallion (spring onion) and toss together.
- Pop salad into the fridge and let the salad “marinate” in the dressing for about 15 minutes before serving.
- Tumble into a large serving bowl and serve.
- Pressed tofu skin or bean curd sheets can be found in Asian grocery stores. They should be in the same place as fresh tofu. If you can’t find pressed tofu skin, try using a plain hard or pressed tofu and thinly slice into strips.
- If you prefer, you can use raw cauliflower in this recipe. There is no need to blanche.
- You can prepare this salad in advance and serve later. The tofu skin, cucumber and cauliflower holds pretty well with the dressing.
- You don’t have to use Lao Gan Ma Chili oil. Any Chinese / Sichuan chilli oil would work especially for those that have a nut allergy. Choose another brand of chilli oil that does not have peanuts.
- Try other raw vegetables and ingredients with tofu skin noodles and it is delicious. Try these combinations:
– shredded carrot
– shredded daikon
– chopped coriander
– finely sliced red onion
– toasted sesame seeds or peanuts
– fried garlic
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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