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Chinese Salads

Hot or cold, Chinese Salads are more than just an appetizer

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Chinese Cucumber Salad

Spicy Cucumber Salad

Rhonda Parkinson
People have been enjoying the nutritious value of a simple salad since ancient times, when they used salt to season wild plants and herbs. (In fact, the word salad comes from sal, the Latin for salt). Of course, salads have evolved since those distant days. Today, in addition to greens, salads can be composed of vegetables, pasta, and fruit. Some are more filling, containing meat, poultry, or cheese. More recent inventions include the Waldorf salad - a simple concoction of celery, walnuts, apples and mayonnaise - and the Caesar salad, rumored to have been invented by an Italian chef residing in Mexico in the 1920's. While most salads are served cold, a few, such as the German potato salad, are meant to be served hot.

  Still, whatever the ingredients, we tend to think of a salad as a type of appetizer: served at the beginning of a meal and designed to wet our appetite for the main course. But salads play a different role in Asian cuisine. For one thing, the common variety garden salad is unknown in Asia. For another, a salad such as a noodle salad may make up an entire meal. A salad is often designed to provide a contrast or balance with other dishes, since the harmonious blending of textures, colors, and flavors is one of the hallmarks of Chinese cuisine. The crunchy texture of lightly blanched vegetables may balance a soft noodle dish, for example. And, like a sorbet, a salad may be used to clear the palate after a particularly spicy dish.

  Another noticeable feature is the amount of care taken in the physical appearance of a Chinese salad. Instead of being tossed in a bowl, salad vegetables - often blanched instead of being left raw - are normally carefully arranged on a platter.

Dressings and garnishes are commonly used in Chinese salads. In fact, in ancient times it is likely the Chinese seasoned their plants with soy sauce instead of salt. Some of the more common garnishes used to top salads are cilantro (Chinese parsley), peanuts, and chilies. Lime juice is a frequent ingredient in dressings, while peanut and/or sesame oil are the most common oils used.

Chinese Salad Recipes  

  • Asian Pasta Salad - main dish pasta salads are a great choice for summer
  • Asian Vinaigrette
    This recipe is made with red rice vinegar, but you can substitute red wine vinegar.
  • Asian Coleslaw
    This fusion dish is made with Chinese greens and mung bean sprouts, topped with a tangy rice vinegar dressing and toasted sesame seeds
  • Easy Chinese Chicken Salad
    A California creation, this recipe combines chicken with mandarin oranges and chow mein noodles.
  • Chinese Chicken Salad with Rice Sticks
    A less westernized recipe for Chinese chicken salad, with shredded chicken and preserved ginger. The rice sticks are a nice touch but if unavailable, feel free to garnish the salad with chow mein noodles.
  • Bang Bang Ji
    Here is the Szechuan version of a chicken salad, also called Bon Bon, Pong Pong, and "strange flavor chicken salad."
  • Cold Asparagus Salad
    This simple salad takes less than 5 minutes to make and tastes delicious!
  • Spicy Cucumber Salad
    Cucumbers are coated in a red wine vinegar dressing spiked with minced ginger and red pepper flakes.
  • Chinese Potato Salad
    A tangy dressing made with rice vinegar and other Chinese seasonings, from the United States Potato Board
  • Spicy Chinese Potato Salad - In this recipe the rice vinegar and olive oil dressing gets extra flavor from chile paste
  • Mashed Potato Salad - Chinese seasonings and vegetables lend flavor to a potato salad made with mashed potatoes.
    Gado Gado Salad
    This is Indonesia's take on potato salad, with vegetables layered attractively on a plate and topped with a flavorful peanut dressing made with coconut milk. For an extra touch, garnish the salad with edible flowers.
  • Cold Noodles in Sesame Sauce
    Nutty flavored sesame plays a major role in this popular Szechuan dish
  • Chinese Noodles in Peanut Sauce
    Hakka noodles and vegetables are topped with a flavorful dressing made with peanut butter, sesame paste, honey and other seasonings.
  • Chilled Melon Fruit Salad
    This is perfect for those occoasions when you want a dessert recipe that's easy to make and will impress guests. An assortment of seasonal fruits are lightly coated with a sugar syrup and spooned into melon halves. The recipe includes a photo of the finished product.
  • Chinese Fruit Salad.
    This colorful fruit salad has a five-spice powder and sugar topping
  • Turkey, Mandarin and Poppy Salad
    Another fusion recipe - the secret ingredient in this salad is the Dijon mustard, which thickens the dressing and balances the strong taste of the red wine vinegar.
  • Seven Layer Chinese Salad With Ramen noodles, peanuts, and an oil and vinegar dressing, from Linda Larsen, About.com's Guide to Busy Cooks
  • Aaloo (Indian Potato Salad)

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