The Umami Reader: The Asian Salad Must Die
We often joke about the Asian Salad genre at Umami Mart HQ -- Chinese Chicken Salad, Chopped Asian Salad, Oriental Salad, etc. It is so ridiculous and it boggles me that it's still on menus around the country, and even, ehem, the Bay Area. What exactly makes a salad "Asian"? Is it the cilantro? The thin strips of cabbage? The sesame oil in the dressing? Almonds, perhaps? Mmmhmm, so Asian... Ok, ok, the Chinese Chicken Salad is actually pretty palatable and standard, and I'd order it at Applebee's if I was ever forced to eat there. However, leave those disgusting fried wonton bits out, they taste like a grease trap!
So anyway, I was happy to read Bonnie Tsui's op-ed piece in the New York Times titled, "Why is Asian Salad Still on the Menu?" She goes through the history of this salad and touches on the tropes and casual racism that comes with it.
The bottom line is that a salad does not and can not have an ethnicity. We've normalized the Asian Chop Chop Salad and the Secret Asian Man Salad (WTF kind of name is that?! And it's trademarked!!!) enough and it's time to dismantle the horrible moniker. I am Asian and my mother never made me this salad growing up. I go to Asia twice a year and have never seen these salads anywhere in any Asian country. As Ms. Tsui puts it, it's a salad based on suburban Americana nostalgia, not on any actual country in Asia.
So let this silly 80s trend die already. Can't it just be called a Chopped Chicken Salad?
*Photo by Easy Peasy Mealz