A couple of weeks ago while I was in Los Angeles, we went for lunch at the Beijing Pie House in Monterey Park (a Mecca for excellent Chinese food in America). My husband Rory and I started things off with silken tofu garnished with soy sauce and scallion and an order of celery with peanuts. On the face of things, these dishess may seem boring but in reality, they awaken your palate.
At a snack shop like Beijing Pie House, such side dishes prepare you for the onslaught of hearty dumplings, pan-fried meat pies, and noodle dishes. It was a hot afternoon and the savory smooth tofu and the delicately dressed crisp celery were perfect partners.
The tofu came out quickly but the kitchen took a while to make the celery salad. I wondered why didn’t they already have it done and ready to dish up? It was just blanched vegetables tossed in a few seasonings. The waiter explained that each order was made on the spot.
Aha! It’s a dead simple preparation, totally a la minute. So I gave it a whirl after we returned home and came up with my own rendition, spiked with nutty sesame oil and ground Sichuan peppercorn. Beijing Pie House used mostly celery and few pieces of carrot and some boiled peanuts, coating everything in a touch of sugar, salt, and vegetable oil. The peanuts didn’t add much so I upped the carrot. I also amped up the seasonings.
It took me all of 10 minutes to make the crisp, cooling, and colorful combination. Letting the vegetables soak for a couple minutes in just-boiled water is my way to effectively monitor and control the cooking. You don’t want limp celery and carrot. This is easy breezy cooking, perfect for summer.
Celery and Carrot Tossed with Sesame
Instead of the sesame oil, use chile oil or go neutral with canola or vegetable oil. This is a recipe that can easily be doubled.
Yield: 2 servings as a nibble or side
- 4 large ribs celery, cut on the diagonal into thin pieces, each a generous 1/8 inch thick and 3 inches long
- 3 inches carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into thin piece, about half the thickness of the celery
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 pinches ground, toasted Sichuan peppercorns
- Put the celery and carrot into a bowl. Bring half a kettle of water to a boil, turn off the heat. After the boiling subsides, pour enough water over the vegetables to cover. Set aside for 2 minutes, until you can bend a piece of celery so the ends nearly touch.
- Drain the vegetables, flush with cold water, and set aside to drain. Wipe the bowl dry, then stir together the salt, sugar and sesame oil in the bowl; don’t worry about dissolving the sugar and salt. Shake excess water from the vegetables before adding them to the bowl. Stir to coat. Set aside for a couple of minutes to develop the flavor. Taste and add extra salt or sugar.
- Transfer to a plate and sprinkle on the Sichuan peppercorn. Serve.
More hot-weather salads
- Spicy Vietnamese Vegetarian Cabbage Salad (Goi Bap Cai)
- Green Papaya Salad with Beef Jerky (Goi Du Du Kho Bo)
- Vegan Green Papaya Salad (Goi Du Du Chay)
- Thai Melon Salad
- Asian Herb Rice Salad (Nasi Ulam)
- Grilled Beef and Jicama Salad
- Chilled Cucumber and Garlic (on Asian Dumpling Tips)