Awesome rice & noodles recipes to make and savour.
It gets hot in Australia. Really hot. And when it’s really hot, cooking isn’t much fun. Sure, everyone likes a barbie outside, but that’s not always practical, and sometimes you just need a break from the heat. Enter the salad. We don’t always associate food with refreshment, but a salad can hit the spot like a cool glass of water or your favourite icy-pole. The key is to use flavour combinations with a little more acidity and to keep things as herbaceous as possible.
The reason you want to lean towards acid is for the palate-cleansing property. There’s a reason you get served highly acidic amuse-bouche type bites between dishes if you’re eating a degustation. It’s also why a lot of icy poles and sorbets are made using acidic fruit flavours – your mouth associates these flavours with cooling and refreshment.
The great thing about Asian herbs is that they’re very leafy. Whether it’s Thai basil, Vietnamese mint or coriander there’s enough surface area to add mass to the salad as well as flavour. Combine beef with some of them, minus the chilli to ease off the heat, and you’ll get a refreshingly wholesome dish that’s easy to make and marvellous to taste. Just try our Thai beef & Riceberry salad or Thai beef noodle salad!
Then, of course, you’ve got mildly flavoured yet crisp and moisture packed salad toppers like bean sprouts, baby corn and bamboo shoots. While these ingredients don’t pack a punch of flavours, they add delicious texture and crunch to a leafy bowl of goodness. They are also versatile, serving both as companion ingredients and cooling agents in many Asian cuisines. Enjoy bean sprouts in a yummy lettuce wrap, steamed Vietnamese spring rolls or even as a dish on its own.
Citrus fruits can lift a salad from the good to the great. Mango is the obvious go to if you’re Australian, but Buddha’s Hand, finger limes and mandarins are awesome too. Combine tender, fragrant lamb with the sweet-sour taste of mango, get sumptuous with pomelo and prawns, or go simple and tasty with a mandarin salad. If you’re looking for something a little less intense, watermelons are another solid option.
When it comes to the base, there’s a whole lot of interesting Asian options. Wombok or Chinese cabbage is crunchy and slightly spicy. Add tofu, mushrooms, soba noodles, and season with soy sauce for a crisp and flavoursome salad. Chinese broccoli, mustard greens, watercress and bok choy are all good choices too. Chinese broccoli is yummy on its own. Peppery watercress makes a fine soba salad, or even accentuate the taste of a Vietnamese beef salad. Prefer vegan? Make this easy bok choy salad!
Finally, there’s the dressing. Asian sauces are perfect for blending and serving with a salad. Whether it’s the salt from quality soy, the acidic fragrance from the fish sauce or vinegary heat of sriracha, there are many brilliant flavours and colour combinations to taste and explore.
So head to your nearest Asian grocers, grab some cooling veggies, and get creative. You won’t regret it on a 40°C day!