One of my favorite ways to enjoy 1000-year eggs is as part of a cold-tofu salad. This presentation of pidan is enjoyed all over China this way as well as in Taiwan, Japan and Korea. It is served as an appetizer or as part of a meal with many dishes eaten at the same time. For western cooks, it is simple to make, exotic, nutritious (full of protein) and welcomes an endless array of variations to suit almost any taste. It also works well as a snack or a light meal
The secret to this fabulous dish is in the dressing. It is salty, savory, sour and a bit sweet all at the same time.
It can be served as a mixed melee as I have done in the photo above, or it can be served Japanese style, like a hiyayakko, where each ingredient is placed separately on a platter and diners can pick only those ingredients that they want.
Cold Tofu with Pidan
8-10 ounces of silken tofu
2 1000-year eggs
1-2 tablespoons shredded bonito
1 large spring onion, minced
1/3 cucumber, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 red chili pepper (optional, but good)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon black vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar (I use demerara)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Place the tofu in a serving dish or bowl and slice into cubes; keep the cubes together in a single unit. Quarter one of the 1000-year eggs and place around the base of the tofu. Roughly chop the second pidan and set aside. Place shredded bonito on top of the tofu, then place the roughly chopped pidan on top of the bonito.
In a small bowl mix together the spring onion, cucumber, garlic, ginger and chili pepper. When well mixed, place on top of the tofu and other ingredients. In a small cup or bowl combine the ingredients for the dressing and mix until blended. Pour dressing over tofu and serve immediately.
Variations: This dish is really flexible and can be easily changed to suit your tastes. You can substitute pork floss for bonito, or omit the meat flavors altogether for a dish more suitable for vegetarians. If you enjoy the flavor wallop of Chinese pickled mustard, add a tablespoon to the vegetable mix. If you don’t like the sometimes overpowering flavor of sesame oil – use less, or omit completely. If you prefer it more sour use only black vinegar. (Photo of Cold Tofu and Pidan by Laura Kelley)