Although I had my first raw kale salad years ago in the form
of a kale Caesar at a restaurant in Berkeley, it’s taken me until this now to
make it myself. Raw kale salads haven’t appealed to me as much as they have to
others for the sole reason that most of the kale sold has had tough, super curly
leaves. Salads made from that kind of kale are like chewing on a wet Brillo
pads. I know that raw kale is a super good-for-you food but how much of it can
I really eat to be ‘healthy’? Not much. Kale, I thought, was best boiled,
simmered, or sauteed. Well, until now.
We’ve been making an Asian style kale and seaweed salad once
a week for a couple of months. The switch happened when I noticed that our farmer’s
markets were loaded with kale whose leaves were soft, ruffly (not curly) and
practically velvet-feeling. Local farmers were selling 2 bunches of organic
kale for $3 and of course, I had to strike. The vendor I queried didn’t know
what variety it was but vouched for the leaves as being extra suitable for raw
kale salads. So I gave it a whirl.
The idea behind a kale salad is nothing new to Asian
kitchens where salads and pickles often require that you massage or toss vegetables
with salt and/or acid to soften their texture and force them to release some of
their liquid. If you’ve made the Viet daikon
and carrot pickle for banh mi or green
papaya and beef jerky salad, you’ve gone through the same steps. It’s a
similar thing with Japanese and Chinese-style
For this kale salad, I take a slightly Japanese turn and add
seaweed for cooling texture and taste, as well as cucumber for crunch and translucency.
The result is refreshing and tasty. It’s also healthily cleansing. Wine expert
Jeff Bareilles recently invited us over for a steak dinner with multiple bottles
of fine French wines. I fried potatoes and to balance the menu, I also made
this salad. We felt less guilt for our indulgences.
With the summer grilling season ahead, this salad would be
great to offer as a side. We live to eat but should also eat to live well and
healthily (so we can eat again). Happy Memorial Day!
Asian Kale and
Yield: 4 servings
- 2 to 3 tablespoons dried wakame seaweed (sold at
Asian and health food markets)
- 1/2 bunch kale
- 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) English cucumber
- Sea Salt
- Unseasoned rice vinegar
- Regular soy sauce or vegan
Japanese seasoned soy sauce
- Toasted sesame oil, grapeseed oil, or canola oil
the seaweed in a bowl and add water to cover by 1 inch. Set aside to soak and
rehydrate while you prep the other vegetables.
the leafy soft parts from the center ribs and stems of the kale. As you work,
tear the ruffly pieces into bite-size pieces and drop them into a bowl. Discard
the ribs and stems portions.
the cucumber lengthwise, then use a spoon to seed each half. Cut the cucumber
into thin crescents then add to the kale.
the seaweed is soft and about quadrupled in volume, drain it well and add to
the kale and cucumber. Sprinkle on about 1/4 teaspoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon
of salt. Drizzle on 1 to 2 teaspoons of mirin. Then drizzle on 1 to 2
tablespoons of rice vinegar.
use one hand to massage the vegetables for a couple of minutes, until they
soften. Don’t worry if the cucumber breaks. When things are soft, season with
soy sauce (or the seasoned soy sauce) for savory goodness. Add 1 to 2
tablespoons of the oil of your choice to inject a bit of fatty goodness. The
salad can sit for an hour before serving. Transfer to a serving dish or bowl,
leaving behind any liquid. Enjoy at room temperature or slightly chilled.