Autumn is often defined by a splendid crunch, whether from fallen leaves tread underfoot, logs being devoured by a crackling fire or roasted pumpkin seeds. Although fall is also associated with seasonal treats like pumpkin pie, hot cocoa and cobblers, mirror the autumn crunch with a crisp salad like this vegetarian Chinese Chickenless Salad.
Why do people like crunchy food so much? People taste their food visually before taking a single bite, so the same perhaps applies to the auditory effect of hearing your food; it completes the eating experience on every sensory level. Or, as some anthropologists suggest, a predilection for crunchy food (often fried) correlates to prehistoric man’s diet of nuts and barbecued meat. Whatever the reason, there is something innately satisfying about crunchy food, and this salad is a prime example. Almost every ingredient in this Chinese Chickenless Salad has enough crunch that it practically bites back.
A few of these ingredients may be unfamiliar at first, but it’s no sweat if you know what it is and where to look. Crispy chow mein noodles, for example, are pre-fried and usually sold in a can. Wonton wrappers, on the other hand, are typically located in the refrigerated area of the produce section, beside the tofu, tempeh, udon noodles, etc. (If you are short on time for making the wonton strips yourself, look for the packaged variety amongst the croutons and salad toppings.)
Large supermarkets these days typically include an Asian or ethnic food aisle with many of these products. However, it may proven easier and faster to stop by the local Asian market in Davis, Kim’s Mart, for the specialty items. Once you acquire these specialty ingredients, reserve the remaining in your pantry and make this Chinese Chickenless Salad again and again!
- 3 cups romaine lettuce, torn
- 1 cup green cabbage, shredded
- 1 cup red cabbage, shredded
- 2 oranges, chopped
- 1/4 cup green onions, diced
- 1/3 cup celery, diced
- 1/3 cup crispy chow mein noodles
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
- 1 avocado, chopped
- 1/2 package of wonton wrappers
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 475 degrees for the wontons strips. While the oven is preheating, combine the sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, ginger and garlic in a bowl. Whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved, then set the dressing aside.
Slice wonton wrappers into strips approximately half an inch thick. Toss in two tablespoons of peanut oil. Spread on a lined baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for five minutes, removing to toss halfway through for even cooking.
In a large bowl, add the romaine lettuce, shredded cabbage, oranges, green onions, celery, chow mein noodles and almonds. Toss to combine. Top with the avocado, black sesame seeds and wonton strips. Add dressing to personal taste, and reserve the remaining dressing in the refrigerator. (Note: Add the wonton strips only when ready to serve your Chinese Chickenless Salad, so the dressing does not make them soggy as it sits.)