Friday, August 13, 2010

5 Salads in 5 Days: Sichuan Slaw

Fail. I guess I had to expect that it would come at some point this week. At first glance, when I was making my grocery list this week, this slaw looked like a sure thing. It resembles an asian slaw that I make frequently (with cabbage, carrots, red bell peppers, scallions, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and hot red pepper flakes in case you want to make a good slaw) so I figured I should try this version to jazz up my old favorite a little.

Upon second look, I started to doubt this recipe. My first issue was that mung bean sprouts were the main element. I love bean in pad thai and scattered on salads, but to think of a dish based around them worried me. As my sister eloquently put it when I spoke to her on the phone the next day, "sometimes bean sprouts taste like dirty dish water." And that they did. My other concern was with the intense trio of herbs suggester: basil, cilantro and mint. It sounded like too much and it was.

As soon as I got to work on Thursday I started regretting my choice of lunch. You have to understand that this time of year at work is a difficult one. We are less than one month away from the biggest, most stressful, complicated day of the season and everything is beginning to add up at an alarming rate. The room I work in not only has no windows, but has no immediate access to the outside world. Lunch time is the one time when I come up for air and find out what the weather that day actually is. I try to get in my vitamin D for the day as quickly as possible and I treasure the opportunity to breathe fresh air. But in addition to being the busiest time of the year inside the office, it is the most miserable time of year outside the office. Unlike the rest of the northern hemisphere, San Francisco chooses July and August for its own personal winter. The jokes and rumors you hear are absolutely true. These days I not only wear long pants, boots, sweaters and coats every day but I have resorted to layering thermals under my clothes on especially bad days. No kidding. Therefore, my lunchtimes are forced to be depressing indoor affairs. No walks, no sitting in the park, no fun excursions in the sunshine. Instead I just sit at my desk with my other sun-deprived colleagues and eat the food I brought from home. Now you might be beginning to understand how important actually liking that food is. My one singular sensory joy between the hours of 9 and 6 on a regular work day is the food I eat for lunch. And this lunch sucked. Waah.

As I sat eating it with my friends, I literally was forced to stop for a minute and stifle the urge to say "whoa!" after every single bite. Too. Much. Flavor. This dish had waaay too much going on. That plus the bean sprouts made this dish a watery problem. I will post the recipe below because I do think it has some potential. If I make this again though, I will go with my instincts and replace the bean sprouts with cabbage and take out 2 of the herbs.

Sichuan Slaw (thanks for nothing New York Times)
1 1/2 cups mung bean sprouts
2 shredded carrots
2 shredded stalks of celery
1 minced red thai chili
1 Tbsp. minced basil
1 Tbsp. minced mint
1 Tbsp. minced cilantro
soy sauce, sesame oil and a dash of sugar to taste

Oh well, better luck tomorrow.

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