Halloumi & Persimmon Salad With Creamy Miso Dressing
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 5 minutes
- Serves 1
For far too long, our website featured a recipe with culturally insensitive food writing. In an effort to do better for you, our community, and for the editorial standards at Food52, that recipe has been removed. In its place, here is a deeply personal, highly delicious recipe from Annie Wu—creator of the In Search of Lost Smell Instagram account. She’s here to share what a Chinese American salad means to her and her family. –Emily Ziemski, Food Editor
I promise you: This salad (or at least a version of it) will 100 percent be the envy of the lunch table. At the risk of regurgitating the oft-told Asian American tale of ridiculed school lunches, I will just say that I caved to peer pressure early. For 10 years, I packed a peanut butter sandwich for lunch every single day, until finally, I simply couldn’t anymore.
I asked my dad if there might be something more interesting—perhaps a salad—to which he replied, “Chinese people don’t eat salads. But, I guess, Americans do.” By high school, my dad’s salad had become legendary, and all the cool kids would barter with me for a bite. When I consulted my dad for the recipe no specifics were given, except that “the secret is in the sauce.”
To me, Secret Salad Sauce is a feeling that can be bottled. It’s the pull of assimilation, that tension between evolving tastes and knowing that certain ones will always feel more like home. For my dad, the red-capped bottle at the Asian market—full of miso-sesame richness—was a flavor his daughter would recognize and became a guide for the other ingredients to come (basically, whatever the Costco haul was that week). His signature mix had strawberries, almonds, avocados, and cranberries. Mine is inspired by more autumnal flavors like five spice-tossed persimmons and bitter greens, but carries the same spirit. Everything down to the sauce, a dupe of that supermarket splendor, feels authentic to me.
Maybe folks don’t want to read about a salad and have to think about the Asian American experience. But the reason I’m using this precious recipe space to talk about a red bottle and a phone call to my father is that when I see a name like “Oriental Chicken Salad,” I simultaneously recall beloved trips to the Sweet Tomatoes salad bar after school and also grimace at the utter flattening of a vast cultural history into the calligraphy of a Trader Joe’s bag. I’m not trying to replace that salad. Really, all I’m saying is that the through line between my parents, “Oriental Chicken Salad” by another name, and my own modular mixture is that when a culture travels, it evolves and expands.
There are a thousand different salads, loved by a thousand different families. Authenticity belongs more to each individual’s secret sauce than to any prevailing assumptions. Within the fissure between inherited memories and changing circumstances are endless experimentations, each making more room for the other. This Secret Sauce Salad is mine, and I hope you find a way to make your own—and tell the people at your lunch table, too.
Here are some substitutions for harder-to-find ingredients and vegan swaps:
- Dandelion greens are amazingly bitter and hearty, which hold up against this thick, rich, and bright dressing. If you must replace them, think of something with a bit of a kick and body, like a nutty arugula or a mustard green.
- Yuzu is a mild, floral citrus. You may sub with lemon if that’s what you’ve got on hand.
- Hondashi is a dehydrated fish stock that adds a perfect amount of depth and umami to dishes. If you are vegan or cannot find fish soup stock, you can use MSG for the same effect.
- Halloumi is a savory grillable cheese. I like it in this recipe because it adds heft and pairs with the creamy dressing. If you are vegan, you can replace it with cubed avocados.
For the dressing:
mild white miso
toasted sesame oil
rice wine vinegar
five spice, divided
For the greens:
3 ½ cups
dandelion greens, cut and loosely packed
pea shoots, loosely packed
to 4 stems fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
For the toppings:
Fuyu persimmon (on the softer side for sweetness)
slices (about ½-inch thick) halloumi cheese
toasted sesame seeds, to garnish
- Make the dressing: Place miso, sesame oil, yuzu, hondashi, honey, vinegar, tahini, and a dash of five spice into a small bowl. Whisk until miso is smooth. Add water 1 teaspoon at a time (up to 2 teaspoons) and whisk until the consistency is that of a creamy dressing—not too thick!—and set aside.
- Cut off the rough ends of the dandelion stems, and then chop each leaf into three segments. Place dandelion greens, pea shoots, and cilantro in a medium salad bowl.
- Prep the toppings: Laterally slice off the top of the persimmon at the leaves. Cut vertically down the middle. Flip so the center faces down and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices (half moons). Repeat with the other half. Place the slices in a small bowl. Add the remaining dash of five spice and mix with your hands so that each persimmon is thoroughly coated.
- Rough chop the peanuts. If the berries feel dry and stiff, you can soften them by microwaving for 10 seconds (no more).
- Heat a cast-iron skillet or nonstick pan (dry) until hot. Add halloumi, keeping the slices separate. Sear until they no longer cling to the pan and are golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and repeat on the other side. Remove from pan. When slightly cooled, cut each slice into bite-sized pieces.
- Assemble the salad: Add dressing, goji berries, and peanuts to the bowl of greens. Toss thoroughly to combine. Place the dressed greens onto a plate. Top artfully with the persimmon half moons and halloumi pieces (I like the persimmons and halloumi to be placed on top rather than tossed with the dressing since it keeps their flavor bright and separate). Finish with toasted sesame seeds.
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