Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ramen (Israeli-Chinese) Salad

I thought that everyone, or at least every Jew, knew of this salad. We had it 7 or 8 years ago for the first time, prepared by our friend Susan, who is married to an Israeli (Jewish may be a stretch), and then a few weeks later by Anat, who is Israeli. And then everyone seemed to be serving it. But recently, we were eating dinner with some other friends (Jewish, mostly vegetarian) who we would have expected to know about this dish but they had never heard of it. So I am posting it here as a public service, because it is easy and good and a salad that should be in everyone's repertoire.

The salad has lots of variations, but is basically a spinach or bok choy salad (napa cabbage may also be used), garnished with toasted ramen noodles, almonds and sesame seeds, and served with a soy vinaigrette. We call it Israeli Chinese salad because it is most freqently served to us by people with strong Israeli connections, but most other people call it ramen salad. There are lots of variations, and all are easy and good.

Ramen Salad

Ingredients
  • 2 quarts or so of greens (spinach, bok choy, and/or napa cabbage -- see below), washed and dried well
  • 1/4-1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds
  • 1 package ramen noodles
  • 1/4-1/2 cup roasted sesame seeds (you can roast these yourself but it is easier to buy them pre roasted)
  • dressing: 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce, (see below)

Method
  1. Unless using baby spinach, shred the greens into 1-inch pieces and put into a salad bowl.
  2. Toast the almonds until light brown on medium heat in a dry skillet or in a little oil. Watch them carefully so that they don't burn. Set aside.
  3. Crumble the noodles. To toast them, either put them on a foil lined baking dish, spray well with Pam or another oil spray, and bake in a 350 degree oven until brown. Watch them carefully so they don't burn. Alternatively, saute them in some oil until light brown.
  4. After the noodles and nuts cool, toss the greens with the ramen, almonds, and sesame seeds.
  5. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour over the salad, and toss.
  6. Serve before the ramen get soggy.

The greens: While most people make it with only one type of green, our favorite is with a mixture of bok choy and spinach. While prepackaged and prewashed spinach makes this dish very easy to pull off on a weeknight, the fresh stuff is really better, but you do have to wash it carefully. Just running water over it won't do it, because it only seems to trap sand in the crevices. Swish the spinach around in a tub or sink of water, lift it out, drain out the water and rinse out any sand at the bottom, and repeat until there is no sand. Dry in a salad spinner, and if you have time, wrap in paper or cloth towels and leave in the refrigerator a while to absorb excess moisture. (You can do this the night before if you can think that far in advance.)

The dressing: There is no need to follow the proportions religiously. The saltiness of soy sauce and the sourness of vinegars varies widely, so I think your best bet is to whisk up some dressing, dip a leaf in to taste it, and then play with it until it suits you. Generally, salad dressings taste better with more oil, but people hold back for health reasons, so do what makes you and your guests feel comfortable and virtuous. You can add a bit of roasted oriental sesame oil to the olive oil (1 or 2 teaspoons), but not too much or it will dominate the salad. You can also substitute almond oil for the olive oil if you happen to have any around. One of my favorite variations, which accentuates the almond flavor, is to start the dressing with a tablespoon or a bit more of almond butter, whisk in the oil (as if you were making a mustard vinaigrette), and then add the other ingredients. This results in a slightly creamy dressing. You can use all balsamic vinegar, or mix it with sherry or rice wine vinegar. Depending on your taste and the acidity of the vinegar, you can also add a teaspoon or two of regular or date honey. You can also cut down on the soy sauce a bit and use some Bragg's aminos. While this product may sound unappealing it tastes like a rich, aged soy sauce and is worth getting to know better.

Fruit? I have had this salad with diced mango, not overripe, and it is very nice. You might also try it with a few strawberries tossed in.

1 comment:

  1. I like this idea. I would like a mango. No mangoes in Krakow. I posted about ice cream on my blog; I think you'll like the post.

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