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 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.
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.
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 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
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 whole chicken, about 3 lbs
- 1 head cabbage, about 2.5 lbs
- 1/2 cup neutral oil such as canola or grapeseed
- 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1/3 cup sesame seeds
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced
Tell us: What salad would your re-create would you like to recreate?