Ma Lan Tou is a simple and refreshing cold appetizer that is very easy to make. It is usually served with a selection of small plates beginning any Shanghainese feast. For one, I like that it takes only 5 to 6 ingredients. It goes wonderfully with rice, saucy dishes and has a fragrant but mild flavor.
Ma Lan Tou (MLT) is also known as Kalimeris Indica (Indian Aster). It is a flowering herbaceous perennial plant (similar to a daisy or chrysanthemum) and grows mainly in China, Korea and Japan. It is said that the plant is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat acute inflammations, high blood pressure and is also also effective in stopping bleeding.
Whether, it holds up to its medicinal uses I enjoy the extra serving of vegetables and dried bean curd.
In Vancouver (Canada), MLT usually is packaged frozen. Rarely, do you ever see fresh leaves sold at supermarkets. Thaw and boil to remove the chillness. Run under cold water to stop the cooking. Using a colander, drain all water from the veggie and press out excess water.
This Ma Lan Tou recipe requires dried tofu豆腐干/豆干. If you don’t have these stocked at home, you can always use bean curd sheets (sometimes called bean curd threads). Since they come dried, you will need to soak them for at least 10 to 15 mins in hot water.
If you use Dried Tofu, simply dice finely. If you bean curd sheets, after soaked in water, ensure you press out the water. Pat dry remaining moisture. Then dice finely. The texture will be firm and a little rubbery.
Ma Lan Tou Recipe (Kalimeris Indica Tofu Salad) 馬蘭頭
- 2 Cups Ma Lan Tou
- 3 Squares Dried Tofu (or 4 to 5 sticks dried bean curd)\
- 1 tsp salt
- 0.5 tsp sugar
- 0.5 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp cornstarch (Optional: to wash the Ma Lan Tou)
- Wash Ma Lan Tou with cornstartch. This is optional. But I find adding cornstarch helps to draw out dirt and any muddy flavors from the plant.
- If you are using frozen MLT, thaw and blanch in boiling water for a few minutes to remove the chillness. Rinse with cold water.
- Drain water using a colander. Press out excess water with hands. Pat dry with paper towel. Finely dice MLT.
- Finely chop dried tofu/ bean curd.
- Add the finely diced MLT and dried tofu in a large mixing bowl.
- Add salt, sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil. Toss and mix well.
- Tightly pack into bowl or cup and invert onto a dish to serve. I usually use a rice bowl.
- This dish can be made ahead of time and kept chilled in the refrigerator.
- Serve 4 (or serves barely 2 if you have me at your table)! I can this all to myself!