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Chinese Salads: Do they exist?


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By and large traditional Chinese cuisine is cooked. No raw fish tradtion to speak of, and nary a salad section to be found. Yet because adaptation is the tradition, salads have crept into the repetoire.

Have you had one? How was it? What was it? Lobster with Mayo?

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the only chinese salad i've had would be a 5 lb lobster mixed with melon and mayonnaise. more of a fruit salad.

that was about 8 years ago.

nothing since.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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The Japanese have what they call a Chinese salad, it is usually shredded lettuce, cucumber, carrots, and ham, dressed with a soy-vinegar-sesame dressing.

Wonder if anything like this exists in China?

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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There's a raw fish salad that's eaten by the Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore during Chinese New Year called "Yee Sang" - it's a salad of shredded lettuce, julienned carrots, julienned jicama, finely shredded lime peel, pickled ginger, kaffir lime leaves, pomelo, crunchy bits of crackers and slices of raw fish topped with a lime-plum sauce (there's also a Nyonya version with Hoisin sauce) and spices. The various ingredients are placed on a platter and the diners toss and mix it at the table with their chopsticks. It's traditionally only eaten on the 7th day of Chinese New Year ("yan yatt" - everyone's birthday) but nowadays restuarants serve it throughout the whole Chinese New Year period.

The Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese believe that Yee Sang brings good luck, prosperity and wealth for the year to those who toss and mix it while shouting "Low Hei". It's also believed that the higher you toss and mix it, the better your luck will be for the year.

Yee Sang is most likely an invention of the Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore as I don't think it's eaten in China, Hong Kong or Taiwan.

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There's a raw fish salad that's eaten by the Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore during Chinese New Year called "Yee Sang" - it's a salad of shredded lettuce, julienned carrots, julienned jicama, finely shredded lime peel, pickled ginger, kaffir lime leaves, pomelo, crunchy bits of crackers and slices of raw fish topped with a lime-plum sauce (there's also a Nyonya version with Hoisin sauce) and spices. The various ingredients are placed on a platter and the diners toss and mix it at the table with their chopsticks.

I also recall eating a couple of what I would call "composed salads" at a now-defunct Chinese restaurant in Bangkok called Wise Men. I don't know how authentic they were, but the most certainly did not feature lettuce (other than maybe as a garnish or a plate liner). They were more on the order of salad nicoise than what most American's think of as salad (tossed). This is many years ago, but I recall an array of julienned vegetables and duck with a sauce.

I also recall some lettuce wrapped things at this restaurant, but those would not, in my estimation, be considered salads.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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A couple of other simply salad things (northern)

Chopped up chunks of cucumber, slightly bashed (hard to describe) with vinegrar and sometimes sesame oil

Sliced tomatos sprinkled with sugar (sic)

Think also cold starters at the start of a formal meal; some might get a bit salad-y (does dressed cold jellyfish count?)

cheerio

J

Edited by Jon Tseng (log)
More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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I think it would be helpful to define "salad." If you mean lettuce mixed with a kitchen-sink assortment of raw vegetables smothered in Ranch dressing, then certainly the answer would be no. However there are any number of cold dishes -often eaten as starters- in Chinese cuisine, many that feature raw vegetables. You could say the most basic of these is the cucumber eaten whole, a popular snack on trains. Liang cai are preparations of cold vegetables in a spicy dressing, sometimes mixed with bean starch noodles and/or meat. In Sichuan, there are restaurants that specialize in leng dan bei, cold dishes that can be vegetable- or meat-based. Come spring, they will often advertise by laying out a spread on a table outside in front of the restaurant. San si indicates a dish of 3 types of shredded/julienned vegetables (or often, bean starch vermicelli) in a light dressing. One of my favorite cold dishes is suan ni huang gua, raw cucumber dressed with vampire-defeating amounts of chopped garlic and dressed with oil. To my knowledge, these are not "adaptations."

Historically, it's true that the Han have always been quite involved with the intricacies of cooking and seasoning food, frequently using it as an analogy for inner harmony and gentlemanly refinement. Many elaborate Shang bronze vessels were for the cooking of ritual foods. Raw food, on the other hand, doesn't really register on the radar screen. The LI JI (BOOK OF RITES) contains a passage indicating the Han differentiated themselves from the "barbarians" on their borders by their consumption of cooked, as opposed to raw, food. However, by food, the passage is referring to meat. Also from the LI JI, we know that mourning ritual involved eating no meat, fruits or vegetables, only water and grain, eventually moving up to meat after the inclusion of fruits and vegetables. This shows that to the Han, grains were the essential staff of life while meat was the food that distinguished the refined from the coarse, the food that through abstention would most show humility. So where does that leave fruits and vegetables and the myriad possiblities they present? Certainly they were part of the diets of all Han, but much of the primary knowledge died with the countless generations of peasants most responsible for the Chinese understanding of the edible and medicinal properties of plants. The most important legacies of peasant knowledge are the SHI JING (BOOK OF SONGS), a collection of folk songs/poems containing many references to fruits and vegetables, and the various Materia Medica, the most important of which were collected by scholars who wandered the country recording folk wisdom of plants and plant foods. Unfortunately, as history is most concerned with men of greatness, humble but no less important knowledge like the daily fare of the common people (among all sorts of other knowledge of the discovery and transmission of foods and foodstuffs) has mostly been lost to the ages.

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The following salad is served in Liaodong: shredded cuke, cabbage, carrot, and fresh (but blanched) bean sprouts piled on a plate and drizzled with a vinegar-soy-sesame oil-wasabi concoction. Can't remember the name (Chaste Nosferatu, seen anything like this in your neck of the woods?).

In fact wasabi is used to dress a few types of raw veggies, at least in Dalian (presumably dating back to when it was occupied by the Japanese).

I've always thought of Shanghai's cold dishes, most dressed simply with sesame oil and salt, as salads: liangban huanggua (cuke with salt and sesame oil); blanched sprouts; finely minced blanched green veg mixed with finely mixed firm dofu; sliced raw tomato (served topped with obscene amounts of sugar in Sichuan); blanched spinach.

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The following salad is served in Liaodong: shredded cuke, cabbage, carrot, and fresh (but blanched) bean sprouts piled on a plate and drizzled with a vinegar-soy-sesame oil-wasabi concoction.  Can't remember the name (Chaste Nosferatu, seen anything like this in your neck of the woods?). 

liaodong is in manchuria, right? the geography memory ain't what it used to be.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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  • 1 month later...

In Shanghainese home cooking, there's a potato salad that's remarkably similar to the potato salad of the West. They even call it sala'. Most likely a hangover from the concession era. It's not someting you'll find in restaurants.

The cold noodles with sesame-peanut sauce that's prevalent in northern Chinese cuisine certainly should also qualify as a "pasta salad."

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The following salad is served in Liaodong: shredded cuke, cabbage, carrot, and fresh (but blanched) bean sprouts piled on a plate and drizzled with a vinegar-soy-sesame oil-wasabi concoction.

There's a lot overlap with Korean Cuisine in that part of China. You could call what you described "kim chee". You'll find that kind of thing in Shandong cuisine, too.

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The "Mongolian" restaurant I go to serves a complimentary appetizer salad of lettuce with a sweet and sour dressing and crushed peanuts. I doubt its authentic (as "Mongolian" cuisine itself isn't) but its a tasty salad, nevertheless.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry for coming so late to the party, but I am irresistibly reminded of my PRC cousin's initial reaction when he was first introduced to to a salad bar in this country. This was in the early 80's when he and my aunt's family were fleeing a society ravaged by the Cultural Revolution. They had only been here for a few months when my parents took all of us out to a Denny's or a HoJo or an IHOP or some such analog.

As I returned from the salad bar, my plate heaped high with spinach leaves and alfafa sprouts slathered in cool ranch (bear in mind I was a teenager at the time), my cousin's eyes bugged out. He pointed at my plate in horror and enunciated the word "Raw!" (si sende!) in Mandarin. He was totally aghast. My mother explained his discomfort having to do with the fact that vegetables are commonly fertilized with human waste in China. I was amused and enjoyed eating my salad with great relish while he recoiled in the corner. Doubtless, that was one of the many instances qualifying me for a one way ticket to Hell.

Edited by titus wong (log)
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He pointed at my plate in horror and enunciated the word "Raw!" (si sende!) in Mandarin.  He was totally aghast.  My mother explained his discomfort having to do with the fact that vegetables are commonly fertilized with human waste in China.

Hello everybody!

Just to add my two cents' worth, vegetables in Southeast Asia too were/are traditionally fertilised with night soil, to the point that even in modern-day Malaysia and Thailand one can be caught unawares.

Having grown up in Singapore in the late 70's-early 80's(where many vegetables were imported from neighbouring Malaysian market gardens), I still have a deap-seated aversion to raw vegetables of any kind.

I have had to forcibly educate myself in Western-style salads (like the traditional Caprese of sliced tomatoes and basil) and still prefer cooked veges or composed salads like Caesar or Cobb.

Also I was always discouraged as a kid from eating too much (read, any) raw vegetables like lettuce or cucumber on the grounds that they were too 'cooling', or 'yin' and would unbalance my 'yang'. :hmmm:

P/S: I have been away from eGullet far too long, I've missed it so!

" ..Is simplicity the best

Or simply the easiest

The narrowest path

Is always the holiest.. "

--Depeche Mode - Judas

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  • 1 year later...

ok being chinese

I have never seen on any chinese restuarant menu or cookbook anything that could be passed of as a chinese salad ( fruit salad excluded).

So i was thinking if i wanted to make a "chinese" salad what would i put into it?

Now i know i'm gonna get a load of people saying that salad just isn't a chinese thing to eat but i want to try making a chinese salad.

afterall Japan has seaweed salads.

Thailand and Vietnam have green papaya, water melon, green mango salads.

Korea has kimchi type things

so why doesn't China have a salad type thing? :unsure:

"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

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