This salad is a crispy Chinese egg roll turned inside-out: the cabbage, carrot, and pork filling is the salad, and the wrappers (baked until crispy and broken into pieces) are the croutons. It’s zippy and fresh and all kinds of fun, with the contrasting flavors and textures of a good crispy egg roll. The hot bacon vinaigrette (punched up with star anise, garlic, ginger, chile sauce soy sauce, and rice vinegar) is one that'll you want to use on everything. Best of all, the whole salad takes less time to prepare than waiting for Chinese take-out or delivery.
The salad is best when served right away (for the crispiest bacon) but it's good leftover too, gently reheated or at room temperature.
4 to 6 as a main dish (many more as a side dish)
small cabbage (about 2 pounds)
carrots, peeled and julienned or shredded
small green onions (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced
kosher salt, to taste
egg roll wrappers (look for them in the refrigerated section with tofu), or substitute 8 wonton wrappers
For hot bacon dressing
strips of bacon, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
whole star anise
garlic cloves, minced
finely grated ginger
chile-garlic sauce, or to taste
plus 2 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce
Cut the cabbage into quarters and remove the core. With a sharp knife or mandoline, thinly slice the cabbage. You’ll have around 10 cups.
Place the cabbage, carrots, and green onions in a large serving bowl. Set aside.
Place egg roll wrappers on a sheet pan and brush each side with vegetable oil. Bake until brown and crispy (about 10 to 12 minutes), flipping once or twice. Let cool a few minutes. Break into croutons, if you like.
To make the hot bacon vinaigrette: In large nonstick skillet, warm oil over medium heat; add bacon and star anise. Cook until the bacon renders its fat and crisps, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels (leaving star anise in skillet). Pour off all but 3 tablespoons bacon fat. Add garlic and ginger to the skillet, and cook over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently (turn down heat if they start to color). Add chile sauce, soy sauce, and rice vinegar and bring to a simmer, stirring well to incorporate. Remove skillet from heat and discard star anise.
Immediately pour 3/4 of the hot dressing over the cabbage, tossing well to combine. Add more dressing as desired (I always use the full amount). Toss in the bacon, cilantro, and sesame oil. Taste for seasoning and balance—adding kosher salt and rice vinegar as needed. Top with egg roll wrapper croutons (or pass them at table). Serve.