Meet the Salad Antidote for When You’ve Just Had Too Much

December 29, 2016

The Honest Weight Food Coop in Albany is renowned for its bulk food section. Nearly as alluring, I find, is its wall of prepared salads, which looks like the pages of a Moosewood cookbook come to life: Think Thai tofu salad, vegan kale Caesar, sweet potato bites, cilantro-lime chickpeas—each plastic clamshell of organic-local-humanely-raised contents as enticing as the next.

I can never resist leaving without three or four of these salads, the labels of which often end up taped to my refrigerator, where I can dissect the ingredient lists before attempting to recreate them. My most recent project has been the Sumi Salad, an addictive mix of cabbage, scallions, sesame seeds, and almonds. It’s sweet, not spicy at all, in fact, and the dressing is heavy on the sesame oil.

My first cloning experiment resulted in good flavor, but poor texture—the cabbage was too firm and crunchy, unlike the tender shreds of the original. In the second attempt, I employed a technique I read about in the notes preceding the Vietnamese chicken salad recipe in The Slanted Door cookbook, which says: “The secret is to presalt the cabbage.”

The salted cabbage and the sesame-y dressing. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

The process is simple. Place the cabbage in a colander, sprinkle with a handful of salt, and, using your hands, massage the salt into the cabbage. Let stand for a few minutes, then rinse the salt off with cold water and let the cabbage drain. Salting draws out some of the moisture in the cabbage, allowing it to relax and better soak up the dressing. When I made the Sumi Salad with presalted cabbage, the texture was perfect.

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The salad’s delicious on its own, and could certainly be served as a side dish, but to make it more of a meal, add chicken. Here, I borrowed another technique from The Slanted Door: To poach a chicken, boil it for 15 minutes, cover the pot, remove the pan from the heat, and let stand for another 15 minutes. The chicken emerges perfectly cooked, plump and juicy, and ready to be shredded.

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Top Comment:
“If you do figure out how to recreate that vegan kale Caesar, please do post - so delicious! ”
— vegemonster

This salad keeps well in the fridge and is something I foresee making year-round, though it tastes particularly good right now—light and refreshing, an antidote to the heft of holiday fare.

A salad just waiting for its cabbage. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

A few tips:

  • As noted, the salad tastes delicious without the addition of chicken or another protein. If you want to add a vegetarian protein, tofu, of course, is a good option whether it’s cold and simply marinated, pan-fried, or baked.

  • If you would rather not poach a whole chicken, you could use boneless, skinless breasts or legs. See recipe notes for cooking times.

  • If you do use a whole chicken, don’t discard the bones and poaching liquid. Return the carcass, bones, and skin to the pot, and simmer for 2.5 to 3 hours or until the broth tastes good. Strain the broth and discard the bones. Transfer to storage containers and refrigerate for a week or freeze for up to 3 months. 

  • This salad is not spicy, but that doesn’t mean a little bit of heat wouldn’t be welcomed. For more of a kick, add a diced jalapeno or a spoonful of Sriracha (or other chili sauce) to the dressing

Tell us: What salad would your re-create would you like to recreate?

Alexandra Stafford is a writer, photographer, and occasional stationery designer based in upstate New York, where she is writing a cookbook. You can read more of her work on her blog.

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I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.


Terri C. May 4, 2023
Could you recreate Mendocino Farms “The Impossible Taco Salad?” I love the vegan chipotle ranch dressing!
alexis December 26, 2021
May I suggest a few tweaks to create a Great “Asian” salad.
Change 1 cup mayo for the oil, change to rice wine vinagar and soy sauce,
Use Napa Cabbage add 1/2 c chopped cilantro. Honey roasted peanuts work well,
Mandarin oranges, or dried cherries. Wonton strips add a nice crunch

Bonniesue January 1, 2021
I haven’t tried making this salad yet, but the ingredients and the dressing remind me of the old ramen noodle salad minus the ramen noodles. Anyone else remember think that?
Frannie December 30, 2020
The Women’s Exchange in St.Louis has a chopped salad that has been a classic as long as I can remember. Iceberg chopped in ribbons, a sweet creamy dressing with maybe a sweet pickle base (?), chopped ham, chicken, bacon, cheese, egg, added and tossed. Not sure why it is so magical but it is. Served with a buttered English muffin. Nothing better!
waltermouse January 6, 2020
How can anyone, with a straight face and a sixth-grade education, write of Thai tofu salad, vegan kale Caesar, sweet potato bites, cilantro-lime chickpeas as "humanely" raised?
Deborah G. December 27, 2019
Our Metropolitan Market sells a winter Waldorf salad in the deli that I would love to recreate. Apples, hazelnuts, goat cheese, but what magic pulls it all together?
Rachel H. March 6, 2017
I have made this salad a couple of times and I love it. I usually have enough for a day or two of leftovers. On day two everything is fine. But on day 3 it starts to taste like I added wasabi and I have no idea why! Any thoughts?
Alexandra S. March 6, 2017
No idea! Do you add anything spicy to it?
OnionThief December 26, 2019
It's the cabbage. After 3 or more days, shredded raw cabbage seems to get mustard-hot. I'm sure there's some science to it. It happens to my home made stuff, as well as the slaw from any bbq place we frequent.
Tory N. January 10, 2017
Any reason purple cabbage wouldn't work?
Alexandra S. January 10, 2017
Don't see why not! I think the purple cabbage — which tends to be crisper/tougher, right? — will really benefit from the brief salting.
Guilherme M. December 26, 2019
Try it! Thought the same thing! You know what else would bring color and taste? Chopped dates! 🙌🏻
vegemonster January 4, 2017
So funny that you mention the Honest Weight Food Coop! I was in Albany for work for several months, which I thought was a veritable food desert until I discovered the Honest Weight gem in the Corning Tower concourse, of all places. If you do figure out how to recreate that vegan kale Caesar, please do post - so delicious!
Alexandra S. January 5, 2017
Haha, I love it. And re vegan kale Caesar, I will! That's one of my favorites.