According to the book, Jean-Georges Vongerichten considers this dish as the best dish David Chang has ever come up with. That was a big remark coming from such a great man and it made me wonder what this salad is all about. This is the very first dish I served for my FB24x24 Momofuku dinner.
David Chang’s team used tofu which basically could do what a mozzarella does in a traditional caprese salad, i.e., to moderate the acidity of the tomatoes and give some creaminess to the dish.
The recipe also calls for Shiso or Japanese mint. Shiso and basil are like long-lost relatives in that they are both minty. I’ve searched a little far and wide (in Manila :P) but I couldn’t find Shiso. I’ve scouted several Japanese grocery stores and still came home unlucky. Fortunately, the book says that they already made several tweaks on the dish and the Ssam Bar team has already made use of Thai purple basil. Hallelujah!
So here goes my version of the Momofuku Cherry tomato salad with silken tofu and purple basil. And as David Chang says, “it’s a world away from an Italian salad, but a riff on a combination and approach to showcasing tomatoes we knew would work.”
- One 12-ounce block silken tofu, drained
- 2 pints (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds) mixed cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon usukuchi (light soy sauce)
- 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
- 1/2 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 6 shiso leaves, stacked atop one another, rolled into a tight cigar, and thinly sliced crosswise (I used purple basil instead)
With your knife blade parallel to the cutting board, cut the block of tofu in half. [Note: Silken tofu is very fragile and a tiny touch can ruin it. Be very careful not to break it] Using a 2- to 2 1/2-inch ring mold (or a narrow straight-sided glass), cut cylinders of tofu out of each slab. Carefully turn each cylinder on its side and slice in half, yielding 8 rounds of tofu. Save the tofu scraps for another use.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water into a boil. Prepare an ice batch in a large mixing bowl. Cut a tiny X or slash into the bottom of about two-thirds of the tomatoes. Drop them, in batches, into the boiling water, and after 10 seconds, remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the ice bath to cool. Slip the skin off the blanched tomatoes, put them in a bowl, and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the remaining cherry tomatoes in half.
Stir together the vinegar, soy sauce and sesame and grapeseed oils in a large mixing bowl. Add all the tomatoes and toss to coat.
To serve, place 2 slices of tofu in each of four shallow serving bowls, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Top each portion with about a cup of dressed tomatoes, season with a pinch of salt and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper, and garnish, generously with the shiso chiffonade.
This is a very refreshing salad and indeed a great Asian twist to the traditional caprese.