Asian slaw with sesame tofu


by Sil Pancho



asian slaw sesame tofu plate

The weather is warming up finally so salads and light meal ideas are at the forefront of my mind. This simple Asian slaw with sesame tofu meets the brief. It is light, fresh, crunchy and satisfying so it’s perfect for this time of the year.

The Asian slaw is really easy to throw together. It features only a handful of staple vegetables including tender sweetheart cabbage, hydrating cucumber, savoury spring onions, filling edamame beans and creamy avocado. Once they all get sliced, chopped and diced, they are brought together with a simple Japanese-inspired sesame dressing that is fragrant, salty, sour and sweet and with lots of umami.

This is where you could stop and maybe add a large handful of toasted peanuts for some more crunch and extra nutrition, but if you want to make this salad into more of a main meal I recommend preparing my sesame tofu and piling it on top.

Previously, I made two versions of sesame tofu before – baked and fried – and whilst they are both delicious and super crunchy, they are a little messier and more time consuming to make.

My goal here was to make the salad more substantial and to continue with the sesame theme, but to make this sesame tofu really quick and easy to make too. I am pleased to say that I think I succeeded. This sesame tofu definitely increases this simple Asian slaw’s satiety factor, yet it’s uncomplicated to prepare too. All you need to do is to marinate the tofu in some soy sauce briefly while you throw a simple cornstarch batter together, then throw it on a hot oil and fry until crispy and golden. That’s it, it really is that simple – perfect warm weather meal if you ask me.


asian slaw veggies

SESAME SEEDS: As this is a sesame-themed dish, sesame seeds are a non-negotiable in this dish. They are easy to find so you should have no trouble. I used hulled white sesame seeds, but unhulled are fine too. For the dressing, I toast them in a dry frying pan first to make them more aromatic and fragrant. For the tofu, I use them raw as they will toast while the tofu is being fried.

SWEETHEART CABBAGE: sweetheart cabbage, also known as hispi cabbage, is a pointy white cabbage which is what I used for this salad. It’s young and tender cabbage, which is delicious, but can easily be replaced by a regular white or even purple cabbage although the latter will turn everything purple so the end result won’t look as appetising.

EDAMAME: Edamame are young soy beans that have been cooked. They are beautifully green and contain plenty of protein so I added them to my slaw for this reason. I bought a small box of already cooked edamame for convenience, but you can also a big bag of frozen edamame and defrost and cook small handfuls at a time to enrich your meals with extra plant protein when needed.

CUCUMBER: I used small cucumber to add a bit of freshness to this slaw. I sliced mine but you can also cube it. If you want, you could core it first to keep the salad from getting to soggy but I don’t think it’s a massive issue in this recipe.

SPRING ONIONS / SCALLIONS: I used a couple of small spring onions in this salad to add a hint of savoury flavour without the harshness of an onion. If you just want a hint of that flavour, use only one spring onion instead.

AVOCADO: I added a small ripe avocado to add a bit of creamy texture to this simple slaw.

SOY SAUCE: I used a fair amount of soy sauce to season the dressing and to season the tofu too. If you are making this slaw gluten-free, use tamari instead.

RICE VINEGAR: A small amount of rice vinegar is needed to add a bit of acidity to the dressing and to balance it against the sweetness of maple syrup.

MAPLE SYRUP: I used some maple syrup to give the dressing a bit of a sweetness. Liquid sweetener is good here as you do not need to dissolve it first, but sugar will work just as well.

GINGER: A good grating of fresh ginger adds a lovely background flavour and a subtle kick. Add two teaspoons of grated ginger for a stronger flavour or one for just a hint.

CORIANDER/CILANTRO: Fresh coriander adds heaps of flavour to this salad so I recommend being generous.

TOFU: Sesame tofu is an optional element of this dish, but if you want to make this salad more substantial or turn it into a main meal, I recommend making it. I used firm plain tofu that I pressed before marinating it in some soy sauce briefly first, then coating it in a simple batter and frying to golden perfection.

CORNSTARCH: I used cornstarch in combination with plain flour to create a light crispy batter for the tofu. If you don’t have cornstarch, potato starch works just as well.

PLAIN FLOUR: I added a bit of plain flour to the batter to stop it from being too gluggy. If you are gluten-free, you can use rice flour or a good gluten-free mix.

asian slaw sesame seeds roasted

To make the dressing, start off by gently toasting sesame seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant and lightly golden. Be sure to give them a toss or a good stir from time to time as they can go from golden to quite dark surprisingly quickly – especially if they sat in the pan for a while.

asian slaw dressing

Transfer toasted sesame seeds to a pestle & mortar a crush them well to release their beautiful aroma. Once crushed, combine sesame seeds with the remaining dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl (or a jar with a lid) and whisk to emulsify. Start off with 3 tbsp of soy sauce, taste and add more if needed.

asian slaw ingredients mixed

Prepare all of the veggies as per the photo above or as per your liking. If you want to make the salad in advance core the cucumber or get rid of it altogether as it can make the salad soggy otherwise.

asian slaw mixing

Just before serving, toss all of the veggies in the dressing and arrange on a platter. If making the tofu, fry it before you dress the salad for maximum freshness.

asian slaw tofu prep

Combine batter ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Dredge tofu pieces in the batter, allow the excess to drip off and arrange them on a clean plate while you heat up a skillet.

asian slaw sesame tofu pan

Pre-heat a non stick skillet or a won on medium heat, then fill it with a bit of oil. Arrange tofu pieces on the hot oil in a single layer – you may need to fry them in two batches. Fry them on both side until golden, adding more oil if needed.

asian slaw sesame tofu closeup

asian slaw sesame tofu plate serving

SESAME TOFU (optional)

  • 400 g / 14 oz firm tofu, pressed
  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp soy sauce (or tamari if GF)
  • 12 g / 1½ tbsp sesame seeds
  • 16 g / 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 15 g / 1 tbsp plain flour or GF flour mix
  • ¼ tsp fine salt
  • vegetable oil, for frying


  • 32 g / ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • 15 ml / 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 45-60 ml / 3-4 tbsp soy sauce (or tamari if GF)
  • 15 ml / 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 20 ml / 1½ tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp minced ginger (optional)


  • 500 g / 17.5 oz Spring (sweetheart / hispi) cabbage
  • 1 small Lebanese cucumber
  • 100 g / 2/3 cup cooked edamame beans
  • 2 small spring onions / scallions
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • a small bunch of coriander



  1. Cut pressed tofu into your same size pieces (like triangles) and arrange in a shallow baking dish.
  2. Combine soy sauce and 1 tbsp of water and pour it over the tofu – turn tofu pieces the other side after a couple of minutes. Allow tofu to absorb soy sauce marinade whilst you prepare the batter.
  3. Whisk sesame seeds, cornstarch, plain flour, salt and about 50 ml (3½ tbsp of water) in a shallow bowl to create a runny batter. Start on the salad, come back to the tofu just before you are ready to assemble the salad.
  4. Just before you are ready to fry the tofu, dredge each piece in the batter, allow the excess to drop off and transfer to a clean plate.
  5. Pre-heat a non-stick skillet (I used cast iron) or a wok, add a thin layer of oil (about 1 tbsp) and swivel it around the pan.
  6. Arrange coated tofu pieces in a single layer (you may need to fry them in 2 batches) and pan-fry them until golden on one side. Flip them to the other side and fry until golden – you may need to add more oil if needed.


  1. Toast sesame seeds in a dry frying pan, on a low-medium heat, until golden. Give them a stir now and then to prevent burning.
  2. Transfer toasted sesame seeds to a pestle & mortar and crush well.
  3. Combine all of the dressing ingredients with crushed sesame seeds in a bowl or in a jar with a lid. Start off with 3 tbsp of soy sauce first and add the last one if needed. Whisk well to emulsify or put a lid on the jar and shake vigorously.


  1. Shred cabbage, slice cucumber (you could dice it if you prefer), cut spring onions and coriander really finely and cut avocado into quarters and then into slices.
  2. Toss all of the salad ingredients in the prepared dressing.
  3. Transfer to a plate and serve with freshly fried sesame tofu on top, if making.

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