Tuesday, June 5, 2007

bok choy-noodle chop salad

You've all seen 'em -- heck, you've probably eaten 'em -- salads with crunchy ramen noodles, that is. At least according to what I was reading they're popular and well known. Well, I'm one of the uninitiated, or was until recently. I've been looking for summer dinner salad recipes and found several, all similar, that called for ramen noodles. I was curious and after looking at recipes I came up with my own version. It's hardly authentic Asian, but it does have more Asian flavors than the recipes I was coming across. I decided it was a keeper -- light, crisp, refreshing, but substantial enough to leave us satisfied -- and a nice variety of flavors. I called it a chop salad because I made a point of cutting the ingredients fairly small and about the same size, as you would in a traditional chop salad.

Here you go -- enjoy!

Bok Choy-Noodle Chop Salad

salad ingredients:
  • bok choy
  • romaine lettuce
  • green onions
  • peas (English or snap; I used English because it's what I had but pea pods would be good in this)
  • carrots
  • cilantro (optional, but oh boy, does it add a nice flavor!)
Chop all ingredients so they're about the same size -- mine were roughly 1/2-1" by about 1/4". Toss well, cover, and chill.

dressing ingredients:
  • 2-4 T. soy sauce (tamari)
  • 1/4 c. rice vinegar
  • 1/4. c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1-2 t. toasted sesame oil
  • 1-2 t. fresh ginger, finely chopped
Bring all ingredients to a simmer, stir well to dissolve sugar, then remove from heat and cool. Chill until time to serve salad.

  • 12-16 oz. frozen tofu
  • 3-4 T. soy sauce (tamari)
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 2 t. dark sesame oil
Stir together soy sauce, water, oil. I use frozen tofu because it absorbs marinades better... so, cut into desired size pieces (again, I made it consistent with the sizes of veggies), pour soy sauce mix over, marinate awhile, toss with cornstarch, fry in two batches. In the photo, the tofu has already absorbed most of the marinade -- so you can see why I like to freeze it first!

noodle-nut topping:

  • 2 packages ramen noodles. I discarded the flavoring packets because MSG does strange things to me but you can use them in the dressing or save them for another use if you like
  • about 1/2 cup peanuts. Wouldn't work for those with peanut allergies, of course, but I love peanuts in some Asian food. Almonds would be good, too, or sunflower seeds, or nuts of your choice, or none.
  • 1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter
Melt butter in pan. Crush noodles (I used a hammer while they were still in the sealed package -- if you have a better way, let me know!). Add noodles to pan and stir lightly over medium heat until they begin to brown slightly; add peanuts and finish browning noodles. Remove from heat and cool to room temp.

Dinner time!

Bring out the chilled salad and dressing, toss in the tofu. At this point you can either add the noodle topping to the salad and toss along with the dressing, or you can serve the salad and topping and dressing separately and let everyone fix their own. I did the latter because it looked like there would be lots of leftovers and didn't want the noodles to lose their crunch.
This would be great to take to a picnic, etc.


Variations are as endless as your imagination. Use packaged slaw (cabbage or broccoli) or make your own. Add other veggies. Skip the tofu. Add chicken, beef, or pork. Use chow mien noodles instead of toasting ramen noodles. The dressing doesn't have to be heated -- just whisk the ingredients together. You get the picture.

And don't lose sight of the big picture -- cook, eat, dance, love!