Inside Out Chinese Spring Roll Salad
If you like spring rolls and chopped salads, this is for you.
I adapted this creative recipe, the winner of a Chinese-recipe contest on www.betterrecipes.com that combines ingredients found in the fresh spring rolls. Here, the dipping sauce is transformed into dressing. The result is a colorful, crunchy, healthy and light side or main dish. It was just right for the warm days we had earlier this week.
This time I added shredded chicken breast to make it an entree, but it’s also great with crab or baby shrimp. I like to throw in peanuts, too. After the first couple of times I made it, I wised up and kept the dressing and salad separate so it didn’t get soggy. That also allows diners to add the amount of dressing that’s just right for them.
There’s always that person who wants extra dressing (I mean you, dear sister). And the one who does little more than wave the cruet over the greens (my husband). I, of course, use the perfect amount (Goldilocks, anyone?).
Mung bean threads take the place of the spring roll wrapper. I recommend the kind that comes in little nests or smaller packages inside a big bag so you can pull out the right amount. The Asian market near me was crazy busy and running out of some ingredients the Saturday I went in. I was stuck with a big package of threads that were really long and intertwined, and I wanted only about 4 ounces.
I tried to cut some off, but my chef’s knife wouldn’t cut through them! (I thought, what, are these made of steel? Isn’t this knife supposed to cut through cans?) They weren’t Chinese longevity noodles, so it was OK. It’s bad luck to break or cut those — tradition says it shortens your life. So I broke some off and ended up with pieces of mung bean threads everywhere. I guess that sort of was bad luck.
Rice vermicelli might be easier to find and would work as a substitute. In fact, if there is some ingredient you don’t like, substitute for it or leave it out. I leave out the cucumber because Joe doesn’t like it, and I use more carrots and cabbage. I use parsley instead of cilantro. It’s pretty flexible.
Have everything ready before you start, and the salad will go together fast. This requires a good bit of chopping.
I’ve incorporated my changes, which mostly consist of extras of some ingredients. The dressing is tripled for that reason.
Inside Out Chinese Spring Roll Salad
4 oz. bean threads (mung bean noodles)
5 cups shredded Napa cabbage (or coleslaw mix)
1 bunch torn watercress
2 carrots, cut into matchstick-thin strips
1 cup seedless cucumber, cut into matchstick-thin strips
1 red (or yellow or orange) bell pepper, cut into matchstick-thin strips
5 green onions, minced
1 can chopped baby corn (drained and rinsed)
2 tbsp. snipped fresh cilantro (or parsley)
2 tbsp. snipped fresh mint
3 tbsp. sesame oil
6 tbsp. sweet chili sauce (less if you have a heat-averse diner)
6 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. soy sauce (plus more to taste)
1 tbsp. minced ginger root
3 large cloves garlic, minced
Zest of 1 lime (optional if you are using bottled lime juice)
1 large, cooked chicken breast half or 1 lb. cooked baby shrimp or crab meat
Garnish: regular or black sesame seeds, plus peanuts
Place the bean threads in water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook for just a few minutes, till the noodles expand and appear glass-like. Let sit 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. Cut into 4-inch lengths. Place in a large bowl along with the rest of the salad ingredients and toss.
Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing till combined; toss with the salad to evenly coat or serve on the side. Garnish with sesame seeds and peanuts, if desired.
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