There are several Japanese recipes that I take so much for granted that I'm sure I've uploaded to this site already...but I haven't. Shira-ae or shiraae, a classic tofu paste that was born from the Zen Buddhist vegetarian cuisine called shojin ryouri, is one such recipe.
It's often described as a 'dressing', but that doesn't adequately describe its thick, rich texture. It's usually mixed with various shredded vegetables, but there's nothing stopping you from mixing it with poached and shredded chicken , or ham, or toasted pine nuts, or anything you like. The rich taste comes from ground sesame seeds and a touch of miso, and the texture is so thick because the tofu is well drained. To be honest, it's yummy enough to just eat by the spoonful.
I've used tahini, which is easier to get for most people, instead of the nerigoma (sesame paste) that's usually used, supplemented by some toasted ground sesame seeds. I also use a bit of white miso instead of the usual soy sauce, to keep the paste very pale in color as well as to add a bit more richness.
A versatile tofu and sesame seed paste that's great with vegetables. The key to the texture is to drain the tofu very well.
Prep time: 30 min :: :: Total time: 30 min (includes time needed to drain the tofu, about 15 minutes)
Yield: 2 to 4 servings
If you don't have any white miso, light colored soy sauce (1/2 teaspoon) is the best substitution. Regular dark soy sauce is ok too, although it will make the paste a little brown.
To toast the sesame seeds, use a dry frying pan. Stir the sesame seeds around in it until they start to pop. Take out of the pan immediately or they may burn. Let cool.
For the shiraae in the photo, I used some of the All-purpose vegetable mix  that I posted a recipe for over on JustBento recently. (Note that I didn't put this recipe on JustBento because uncooked tofu is too perishable to put in a bento, unless you carry it with an ice pack.) You can also use any kind of vegetables, including leftovers, as long as they've been very well squeezed out to eliminate any excess moisture. If the vegetables are wet the paste will get rather runny.
Here are some ideas:
I'll featuring several light, fairly low-cal recipes like this leading up to the summer. I hope you'll enjoy them. ^_^
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By Makiko Itoh
Published: May 09, 2013
Type: Japanese, washoku, vegan, tofu