Tohu thoke

By Marlar Boon from Mabel’s

Featured in Capital #89
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Tohu is a besan-flour tofu from the Shan state of Myanmar.

It is made in a similar way to polenta. Like tofu, it can be used in a variety of applications such as in a soup, fried, or served as a street food salad. What I love about tohu is that it tastes like a rich, savoury, nutty custard, and it’s a great vegan/vegetarian option when we have friends over. 

The word thoke means “to mix”, most commonly with your hands.

A lot of the Burmese condiments used in this recipe can be stored and used to make various other Burmese dishes and salads.


1 1/2 cup of fine besan (or gram) flour. This can be purchased in most Indian spice stores.
3 cups water
½ teaspoon turmeric 
1 tablespoon neutral oil
pinch of MSG
1/2 teaspoon salt

40g tamarind paste
120ml water
3–4 garlic cloves 
5 tsp caster sugar 
1 tsp chilli powder (or add to your liking)
1 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp MSG
1 juice of a lemon
1 tbsp malt vinegar
2–3 tbsp of fish sauce or soy sauce to taste
1/2 bunch of coriander chopped 
2 makrut leaves thinly sliced 
bird’s eye chillies finely sliced *optional

Crispy shallots
3 large shallots finely sliced 
4 cups sunflower or peanut oil 
pinch of salt

To make tohu:

  1. In a large mixing bowl add besan flour, MSG, salt and turmeric. Gradually add water, 1 cup at a time, while whisking continuously. Once all the water has been added, remove the scum from the top. The consistency should be like a watery pancake batter. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.
  2. In a medium sized pot, add half of the mix and stir with a rubber spatula on a medium heat. You may think nothing is happening for the first couple of minutes but the mixture quickly catches the bottom of the pot, and you want to be stirring it constantly. As it starts to thicken, slowly add the rest of the mixture, constantly mixing. You will see the batter thicken and become more glossy. Stop cooking it before it gets lumpy; it should have the consistency of cake batter. Add the oil and keep mixing. In a rectangular Pyrex glass or plastic container brush oil around the base and sides and pour in the tohu mix. Use the spatula to wipe the base and sides of the pot and spread the tohu batter evenly.
  3. Once it has cooled, cover or put a lid on the container and store in the fridge for about 4 hours or until it feels set. 
  4. Once set, cut half the tohu into 1 x 7cm strips.

To make tohu thoke dressing:

  1. In a saucepan, heat water and tamarind paste. Use the back of a fork or wooden spoon to mush the tamarind into a paste. Cook for around two minutes on medium heat until the tamarind seeds are loose. Sieve the tamarind paste, making sure you scrape the paste from the sieve after it has passed through. 
  2. Pound garlic in a pestle and mortar until it becomes a paste. Add sugar, tamarind paste, chilli powder, MSG, salt, lime juice, malt vinegar, fish or soy sauce, bird’s eye chillies and coriander. This is the base of most of the flavour of this salad and I encourage you to add more or less of what you like to suit your tastes. You could make it more spicy, or tart, or salty, depending on what you like. 

To make the crispy shallots:

  1. Fry off shallots on high heat in a cast iron pan or a wok. Remove shallots just before they turn golden as they will keep cooking once removed from oil. Make sure you give the shallots a little shake to remove excess oil. If you are using a smaller pan, you can do the shallots in batches. Keep the fried shallots in a sieve over a bowl to drain the oil or on a paper towel on a plate until they are cool. 
  2. Let the oil cool and add a pinch of salt. This shallot-flavoured oil is very versatile and can be used in many other recipes. You can keep the remainder stored in a jar.

To assemble the salad:

  1. In a mixing bowl drizzle 2 tablespoons of shallot oil. Add the sliced tohu and use enough dressing to coat the tohu fully. Add makrut leaves. Mix gently with your hands so as not to break up the tohu too much. Gently use a large serving spoon to transfer to a flat plate. It should look glossy from the oil and dressing. Sprinkle fried shallots to garnish. 
  2. There should be enough tohu and dressing to make this dish again or alternatively cut any leftover tohu into 3 x 5cm rectangles and deep fry in a neutral frying oil.
  3. Deep fry again for extra crunch and use dressing as a dipping sauce.the remainder stored in a jar.


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