You will not really find this salad in Vietnam. This is the salad I wished was in Vietnam after I ate a bad grilled banana dessert and decided I would probably never eat (or travel) again. SOmething fresh and living and low on the food poisoning possibility scale.
I love Vietnamese food (and Vietnam! And the Vietnamese! So much!). I love the large amounts of greens and herbs and general freshness. I love how light and clean it all tastes. There would likely be ground pork and lots of fish sauce in this if it was more authentically Vietnamese, but this salad is just inspired by what I love about Vietnamese food.
It’s actually a version of a salad I eat every time I’m in San Francisco at the Vietnamese restaurant takeout kiosk in the ferry terminal. It’s fresh and crunchy, herby, colourful and juicy. The original is a little on the sweet side thanks to candied pecans (why are these in every single salad on earth?) and a sweet soy dressing but it is a great jumping off point for a delicious salad addition to this site.
Flavour-wise I prefer it less sweet and that works better for our cancer-crushing purposes too, so I’ve obviously eliminated the refined sugar in my version. I have added some green apple though, to go with the natural sweetness of the grapefruit (and jicama!), and I think this gives it the perfect, if less authentic, amount of sweet balance.
The jicama makes the salad so clean, watery and crunchy with its neutral flavour good-natured vibes. If you can’t find it, kohlrabi would work well in its place, or broccoli stems or even just more of the carrots and cabbage.
The julienne-ing (it’s actually far bigger than julienne, more like a match stick or fat julienne –not an actual term but it should be) is maybe a little bit intimidating if your knife skills haven’t been a priority in your life (you’re probably good at many other things that I’m terrible at though, like figure skating or painting or following directions). If this sounds like you, you could easily use one of these devices, or just grate the carrots and jicama and slice by hand the cabbage (the cabbage will start to smell funky way too soon if you grate it).
Then there are the herbs, these are what make the salad really special. Vietnam has fresh herbs that don’t exist here (at least not where I’ve looked) that poke at secret parts of your taste buds and brain with their grassy, soapy, sometimes fishy (for real) smells and tastes. I opted for three that are relatively easy to find, at least in Vancouver: mint, cilantro and Thai basil. I like the variety; it keeps the others from taking over (just when your brain is about to tell you it’s a mint salad it gets pinged into a basil-y direction and then cilantro and then back to mint, forever and ever until it just decides to sit back and enjoy the ride). It’s also good to use a variety because each one brings its own nutritional properties to the party.
If you can’t find one of the herbs, just use more of the others. If you are amazing and have the Vietnamese fish-herb or the one that looks like bamboo leaves growing in your garden, use those, obviously!
As we learned a few weeks ago, grapefruit is good for your lung health and pink ones contain lycopene, an antioxidant well documented in its anticancer powers (especially for prostate cancer). It also has a natural bitterness that offsets the sweetness in this salad. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a good idea to peel your grapefruit (and oranges) by hand so that you consume some of the mineral and vitamin C-rich ‘pith’ (the white part). This goes against my Chef brain, because it doesn’t look as pretty, but I have gotten used to it and so will you. There is also less waste (economical!) and it makes it slightly bitterer, a balancing taste that we need more of in our lives.
The hemp hearts are in there for protein and fat (notice there is no fat in the dressing?). This helps to lower the glycemic load (the truckloads of fiber in this salad helps with that too) and the fattiness helps to round things out.
As with most crunchy, slaw-style salads this tastes great on day two and three too. You can enjoy it as is or wrap it in collards or in rice paper to trick yourself or someone else into eating salad when you don’t feel like salad.
- ½ medium Jicama (6-700g), fat julienned
- 2 large Carrots (150g), fat julienned
- ¼ Red Cabbage (200g), thinly-ish sliced
- 1 Granny Smith Apple, fat julienned
- 1 Grapefruit, peeled by hand, sliced into rounds and then quarter the rounds
- 4 Green Onions, cut into 2 inch pieces (cut the white pieces in half, lengthwise too)
- ¼ c fresh Cilantro Leaves, torn up
- ¼ c fresh Mint Leaves, torn up
- ¼ c Thai Basil Leaves (or just more of the other herbs), torn up
- ½ c Hemp Hearts
- 3 Tbsp Tamari
- 2 Tbsp Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 Tbsp fresh Lime juice
- 2 tsp fresh Ginger, minced/grated
- 1 Garlic clove, minced/crushed
- 1 tsp mustard
- For the julienne-ing -I find the easiest way is to slice everything into thin sheets on the mandoline and then slice the sheets into julienne by hand. You can also use a spiralizer or grate the jicama and carrots and slice the cabbage by hand.
- Reserve some hemp hearts and grapefruit to top the salad off with and toss everything else together with the dressing.
- Mix all ingredients together