Sometime this past fall I sought to convince the person who shall remain nameless that we should subscribe to Netflix as we were probably one of a handful of Netflix holdouts. Using both broad sweep generalizations as well as appealing to personal self-interest (what else was he going to watch while in Saudi Arabia for extended periods of time?), we shifted from being video-streaming outliers to potentially becoming Netflix binge watchers. Well, not exactly potentially. In the last couple of weeks we have immersed ourselves in the first three seasons of the "House of Cards". Although the critically acclaimed series "Breaking Bad" still remains as one of our all time favorites, this political drama is simply wicked (good). Beyond it's sheer entertainment value along with causing me to become even more weary of the media and politicians (isn't truth always stranger than fiction?), some unintended benefits have resulted from spending thirty-nine hours of my life watching this series.
In the past couple of weeks I have eaten more fresh fruit and vegetables than I have probably consumed in the past couple of years. While I still have my favorite indulgences (heck, even Oprah still eats bread every day), my food cravings and choices are starting to shift. As superficial as this may sound (and it does), I have Claire Understood (aka Robin Wright) to thank (in part) for causing me to make some of these changes. One of them being trying to shift away from making so many mayonnaise-based salads. So when I rediscovered the recipe for this Oriental Cabbage Salad, I thought this sort of, kind of 'coleslaw without mayonnaise' would be the perfect salad to make. It would also allow me to sort of, kind of be part of the ramen noodle craze.
There are hundreds of versions of this Oriental Cabbage Salad out there. You may have heard it called Asian Cabbage Slaw/Salad, Chinese Cabbage Salad, Amazing Asian Ramen Salad, or Chinese Napa Salad. This combination (uncooked) ramen noodle and cabbage salad is the perfect blend of 'crunchy, tender, crisp, salty, sour, and sweet' in a single bite. I wouldn't go so far as to say it is one of the healthiest salads you will ever make or eat. However, this Chinese version of cole slaw is much healthier than the heavily mayonnaise based coleslaw I grew up with and (still) love.
Some of the recipes for this salad call for using a bag of coleslaw mix. However, when given the choice over chopping fresh vegetables versus using ones chopped and sitting in a bag for some undetermined period of time, I choose the slightly more time-consuming, fresher, more flavorful option of chopping a head of cabbage (1 to 1 1/4 pounds), a large carrot and a bunch of scallions myself.
Cabbage happens to be one of those vegetables put in the 'world's healthiest' category. And when when combined with carrots and scallions, this low-calorie and fiber-rich vegetable seems it should be put in the category of the 'world's best indulgences'.
While some view canola oil and vegetable oil as interchangeable, canola oil is slightly healthier and a great option for dressings and marinades. Some recipes for versions of the Oriental Cabbage Salad call for omitting the seasoning packet that comes with the Oriental Ramen Noodles. But this version calls for using these seasonings. Combined with the canola oil, white vinegar, granulated sugar, and black pepper, the seasoning creates a very flavorful dressing.
As for the ramen noodles, they go into this salad raw (uncooked) and crushed. The easiest way to break them up or crush them is to put them in a resealable plastic bag and use a rolling pin to do most of the work. You don't want the ramen noodles to be ground into a powder, but rather you want them to be in small pieces.
In a large bowl, the chopped vegetables and crushed ramen noodles are mixed together with the dressing. After covering the bowl with plastic wrap, the salad is chilled in the refrigerator for 1 1/2 to 2 hours before serving.
Some add the toasted sliced almonds to the salad before it goes into the refrigerator to marinate, others mix them in right before serving. Either option works. I went with mixing them in before the salad was refrigerated. You can either toast the almonds in the oven or on the stove. I prefer toasting them in a pan on the stove as I feel like I have more control. As an added benefit, I don't have to turn on the oven!).
For those of you who love coleslaw, particularly one made with mayonnaise, this one is an incredibly delicious, refreshing alternative. And for those of you live in warmer climates and worry about how long a mayonnaise based salad sits out before it may go bad, this salad takes that worry off of your plate.
Need to bring a salad to a gathering or a potluck, bring this one. It pairs well with grilled beef or chicken as well as adds another taste dimension if served with sloppy-joes. If you are looking for a salad to make for an upcoming Superbowl gathering, this Oriental Cabbage Salad is bound to have wide appeal. Especially since it can be served chilled or at room temperature.
For optimum flavor, serve the Oriental Cabbage Salad on the day it is made. While leftovers are still delicious, the salad (i.e., ramen noodles) will lose some of its' crunch the longer it marinates. If there was ever a salad to prove 'healthier for you' can be immensely satisfying and incredibly flavorful, this Oriental Cabbage Salad would definitely qualify.
You may never go back to making a mayonnaise based coleslaw after you taste this salad. Or maybe you will go back a little less frequently. But, I now think I have found a salad worth binging on.
Oriental Cabbage Salad (inspired by a recipe received many years ago)
1 - 1 1/4 pound head of cabbage, julienned
1 large carrot or 2 medium carrots, coarsely grated
1 bunch of scallions (about 5-6), white and green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 packages of Oriental Ramen noodles (reserving seasoning packets), crushed/broken up into small pieces
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted plus more for garnish (Recommend Fisher Nuts Sliced Almonds)
1 cup canola oil
4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 seasoning packets (from the Oriental Ramen Noodles)
1. Combine the canola oil, granulated sugar, white vinegar, black pepper and ramen noodle seasoning packets in a medium sized bowl. Whisk until combined and sugar has almost completely dissolved. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the sliced cabbage, grated carrot, sliced scallions, and crushed Oriental Ramen noodles.
3. Pour dressing over the vegetables and toss until they are well coated. Stir in toasted almonds, cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 1/2 - 2 hours before serving. Note: Alternately, the toasted almonds can be stirred in right before serving.
4. Transfer salad to a large platter or bowl, garnish with additional almonds and serve.
View at the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park and Boulder Falls in Boulder, Colorado