The combination of lime juice, sugar and garlic with nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce) creates a salty, pungent dressing that's quintessentially Southeast Asian. Tofu turns this salad into a satisfying main course.
1/2 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 small hot red or orange chile such as Holland, seeded and thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, halved and thinly sliced
8 ounces firm tofu, patted dry and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
In a large bowl, toss the watercress with the mint, basil, cucumber, chile, shallot and tofu.
In a small skillet, combine the vegetable oil with the nuoc mam, lime juice, brown sugar and garlic and cook over moderate heat just until bubbles form around the edge of the skillet, about 1 minute. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Mound the salad on plates, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve.