Ssam - Tofu Lettuce Wraps
This isn’t an authentic, bang-on recipe for Ssam (the Korean term for wrapping food up in lettuce - usually pork) but is a completely delicious recipe for a tofu version, resembling ‘lettuce wrapped’ which is a starter you can sometimes get at Chinese restaurants. It’s completely delicious, fairly healthy and fast to make, providing you get all of your chopping out of the way before you start to cook.
The key to this dish is plenty of tofu, not being stingy with the garlic, ginger and chilli, and buying a really good Hoisin. I used the Flying Goose brand. If Hoisin isn’t your thing, try Sriracha and prepare for your socks to be blown off.
1 pack firm tofu (pressed then diced)
Veg oil (to fry the tofu)
Light soy (1 teaspoon)
Dark Soy (1 teaspoon)
Sherry vinegar (1/4 teaspoon)
Rice vinegar (1/2 teaspoon)
A pinch of sugar
A big chunk of ginger (about the same quantity as your garlic when finely chopped)
3 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
3 red chillies (finely chopped)
1 carrot (diced)
1 onion (diced)
1 green pepper (diced)
4-6 chestnut mushrooms (depending on size)
1 iceberg lettuce (peeled into cups)
½ cucumber (cut into matchsticks)
A handful of crushed cashews
Press the tofu under a plate for about 15-30mins. If you’re pushed for time this is not essential, but squeezing out any excess water between your flattened hands will help.
Dice the tofu into 1cm pieces and shallow fry in hot vegetable oil until you have golden cubes that are crispy on the outside and custardy on the inside. Set to one side and try not to eat them all.
Finely chop the ginger, garlic and chillies then dice the onions, carrot, green pepper and chestnut mushrooms. You’re looking for uniformity of size in this dish, so try to chop them to a similar size as your tofu pieces.
Slice your cucumber in strips and peel your lettuce so that you have large leafy cups.
Mix together the wet ingredients (the two soy sauces and the two vinegars) and season with black pepper.
Now you’ve done all the prep you’re ready to cook.
In a large pan, fry the garlic, ginger and chillies in some oil until they have softened and smell brilliant.
Add in the onion and saute until softened. Add in the carrot, mushrooms and green pepper and stir until everything is cooked and looks good. Add in the fried tofu cubes and stir to mix in.
Sprinkle over the pinch of sugar and then add in your soy mixture bit by bit until you have a good covering (no need to use it all, you don’t want to swamp your mixture). If it still looks pale add in some more dark soy.
Serve the mixture in your lettuce wraps topped with the cucumber, cashews and a good drizzle of hoisin. Wrap up and eat messily.
(the filling mixture)