Janet and I were planning a Chinese meal for our friends, Russ and Sue Gale, and one thing we decided to make was an Oriental salad. I looked at the two existing recipes in Food Nirvana for Oriental/Asian type salads and got the idea that they could partially be combined, some new ideas added based on some salads we've had in better restaurants, and thus would be created a new recipe. We were excited to try this experiment but also a bit worried that it was risky serving a dish to friends without first testing it ourselves.
What makes these types of Oriental salads so enjoyable is the combination of ingredient textures, colors and complementary tastes. Our conventional tossed salads in the USA are drab by comparison, even with typical store bought salad dressings used on them. The picture displayed to the right is not an entirely accurate view of our new Oriental salad, but it is close enough.
One thing I find important with salads is to keep the ingredients pretty much separated until serving time, and then, let each person build the salad to their own liking. Russ called it a "Table Salad Bar." This method has two benefits: 1) Each person gets exactly what they want, and 2) Any leftovers are stored separately so that later use of them does not result in soggy ingredients. I use the same approach with my Caesar Salad recipe.
We needn't have worried. By the time we completed our recipes combination, modifications and additions we had a knock your socks off delicious salad. This was verified, of course, at dinner that evening. All four of us gobbled the stuff up with gusto. Janet might not have liked me naming this delight as Ray's salad, for she was crucial to the ingredient selection, tasting and instant re-engineering of the salad to make it unique and very tasty. Oh, well!
Salad Ingredients: (serves four hungry adults)
12 oz. package of broccoli slaw, or, make it yourself from fresh broccoli stems as I do.
3 large leaves of Napa, chopped
1 bunch of fresh green onions (scallions, about 8), chopped into 1/4" pieces(including most of the green part)
1 package of Oriental flavor dry Ramen noodles (soup mix package)
½ cup of roasted sliced blanched almonds
3/4 to one cup of Mandarin orange slices
3/4 to one cup of sliced Lychee, each whole lychee cut into four pieces. This canned product is like a sweet fruit, though I am told it is actually a nut. You can find it at a decent price in Asian markets, or, pay through the nose at your supermarket, if they even have cans of lychee.
In a small saucepan combine 1/3 cup of sugar, ¼ cup of sesame oil, ¼ cup of rice vinegar, 2 tbsp. of soy sauce and the seasoning packet contents from the Oriental flavor Ramen Noodles package. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low and simmer it uncovered for one minute. Pour the dressing into a two cup bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, cool it to room temperature and then refrigerate it until it is used.
Turn on the oven to 350ºF.
Crush the Ramen noodles. I use a one quart Ziploc® freezer bag to hold the noodles, I seal it, and then I use a kitchen mallet to gently crush the noodles. Put the crushed noodles into a small serving cup and cover it with plastic wrap and set it aside for later use.
To make the broccoli slaw you either buy it prepackaged at your supermarket, or, make it at home, at almost no cost. I buy fresh broccoli with long stems/stalks. About five large stems/stalks (one inch or larger in diameter, five or six inches long), processed, will provide the 12 ounces of broccoli slaw needed. I use a kitchen scale to be accurate. Cut off the heads of the broccoli and store/refrigerate them as broccoli crowns for later use in a different meal. Wash the stems and cut off the bottom edges. Use a paring knife and stand each stem vertically and cut off the lumpy areas. Use a potato peeler to peel the hard surface layer from each stem. Grate the stems to create the slaw, using either a hand grater or a grating cutter with a food processor. Put the slaw into a two quart salad bowl.
Remove three large leaves of Napa from one head. Cut off the bottom edges and rinse the leaves. Cut the leaves lengthwise into six to eight strips, including the leafy part. Crosscut the leafy parts by putting them together and chopping every half inch. Crosscut the stem parts by putting them together and cutting every 1 1/2". Add the Napa pieces to the salad bowl.
Cut off the bottom root areas and a small part of the tops from the green onions. If necessary strip any dried parts from the onions. Chop the onions into 1/4" long pieces. Add the pieces to the salad bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until it is used.
Open the cans of Mandarin oranges and Lychee. Fill a small serving dish with about 3/4 to one cup of the orange slices, add enough liquid from the can to keep the slices wet, and cover the serving dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until it is used. Similarly, remove some lychees from the can, cut each one into four quarters and put the pieces into a small serving dish that will hold about 3/4 of a cup to one cup. When the dish is full, add enough liquid from the can to keep the pieces wet, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until it is used.
I use whole almonds that I buy inexpensively at Costco® (three pounds for $10) and blanch about 1/2 cup of them to remove the skins. An easy way to blanch the almonds is to put them into a one cup Pyrex® glass measuring cup and add enough water to bring the water level up to the one cup mark. Then microwave the water and almond mixture for about one and one half minutes ... just long enough to get the water barely boiling. Pour the water off and dump the hot, wet almonds onto a cutting board. Let them cool for a minute and then remove the skins by pressing each nut between your thumb and forefinger. Discard the skins. Dry the blanched nuts with a paper towel and chop each one into two pieces, lengthwise, with a medium to large kitchen knife. Put the chopped pieces onto a cookie tray and roast them in the 350ºF oven for ten minutes, mixing them with a spatula after the first five minutes to assure even roasting. Remove the roasted almond pieces from the tray and allow them to cool, then put them into a small serving dish and cover it with plastic wrap until it is used. Remember to turn the oven off.
When you are ready to serve the salad whisk the dressing, add half of it to the salad bowl, and mix/toss the contents well to coat the broccoli slaw, Napa and chopped green onion pieces. If necessary, add additional dressing and mix again. Serve the remaining dressing along with the containers of Ramen noodle pieces, roasted almond pieces, Mandarin orange slices and Lychee pieces.
Have each guest build the salad individually, starting with the salad bowl contents and then adding as much of the other ingredients as wanted, then tossing the salad gently.
I don't know how to say Bon Appetit' in Chinese, Mandarin or Cantonese, but I am sure you understand my wish for you to enjoy this yummy salad. If you have any leftovers (which I doubt will happen), keep the various salad items separated from each other, covered and refrigerated until they are used.