My mother is a devoted Buddhist. As a kid I occasionally accompanied her to one of the Buddhist temples she often visited. I saw her vowing hundreds of times down to the floor in front of Buddha statue asking for mercy and compassion. She had many wishes to pray to Buddha and all of her wishes were for her children.
One of the fond memories of visiting a Buddhist temple is the FOOD. Like other millions of kids around the world, I wasn’t a vegetable lover as a child. (Were you?) However, it became a completely different story when I was in the the temple. All the vegetarian dishes were just so good! I don’t know why it was. Maybe the fresh air in the mountain, or the truly organic vegetables and herbs that they pick in the nature made the difference?
There are many vegetables and herbs they cook in the kitchens of Buddhist temple. Some are available in the grocery stores and some are not. I, unfortunately, was not able to find the specific Korean vegetables that I am looking for in Buenos Aires, but I can easily substitute with the different one; the watercress!
Watercress is quite unique vegetable. I love its crunch texture and the subtle bitterness. I would like to combine this watercress with tofu. It makes delightful Korean salad that you can eat with a bowl of rice. Just like one of the vegetable dish I had in a small Buddhist temple near my hometown, it was delicious and many fond memories came upon me as I was enjoying it.
Use firm or slightly soft tofu for this recipe. Silken tofu can be too fragile and it won’t hold well. Smash the tofu with side of your knife to loosen.
Use a cotton cloth to wrap around the tofu and squeeze out the moisture out of tofu. (If you don’t like the raw flavor of tofu, you can cook the entire block of tofu in a simmering water for 5 minutes, cool it down, then squeeze out the moisture)
In a small bowl combine crumbled tofu with a little bit of Korean soybean paste (duenjang) and garlic. Mix well to combine.
Blanch the watercress in boiling water with a little bit of salt. Drain and squeeze out the excess water. Toss with Korean soybean paste and garlic as well.
You might ask why can’t I combine the tofu and the watercress all together with the seasoning from the begining. You can. However, with the little amount of soybean paste, it is tricky to incorporate the seasoning with the strands of watercress, and the crumbliness of tofu all at once thoroughly. By tossing them separately it seasons the tofu and the watercress fully and better.
Then combine the two together. Add green onion and a little bit of sesame oil to finish off. That’s it.
Truly vegan and vegetarian, (it can be gluten-free if your soybean paste has no wheat added), I served myself this watercress tofu salad with multi-grain rice. I didn’t miss any animal based protein with my simple lunch. I was happy and felt good.
Vegetables are good for you. Eat as much as you can!
Watercress Tofu Salad
- 1/2 package 8oz firm tofu
- 1 small bunch watercress
- 2 teaspoon Korean soybean paste
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 green onion finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- salt to taste
- Bring a pot of water to simmering boil. Add the block of tofu and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
- Boil a pot of water and add watercress and some salt. Blanch the watercress for 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze out to remove the excess water. Place the watercress in a mixing bowl and add 1 teaspoon of Korean soybean paste, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic. Toss to combine and mix well to incorporate the seasoning.
- Smash the tofu block with the side of your knife to loosed. Wrap the tofu with cotton cloth and squeeze out to remove moisture from the tofu. Place the tofu in a mixing bowl and crumble. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of soybean paste and the 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic. Mix well to incorporate the seasoning with the tofu crumbles.
- Combine both watercress, tofu crumble mixture, and the chopped green onion; and add the sesame oil. Toss well. Add salt to taste if needed.
- Serve with rice.