Chinese Cold “Salad” Dressing (凉拌汁)

This all-purpose Chinese Cold “salad” dressing is ready to add flavor to blanched or steamed vegetables, tofu, seaweed, noodles, etc. With this sauce, you can make a variety of refreshing, cooling dishes during the warmer months, and use it for anything you have on hand. 

Chinese “Salad”

When we say “salad,” we mean it in the broader sense—not lettuce leaves. We’re talking about a broad array of Chinese cold dishes often served as appetizers.

In the summertime, people like to make 凉拌菜 (liángbàn cài), with whatever they have on hand to minimize cooking and heat in the kitchen. The concept is indeed similar to making salad. 

But in China, it will take awhile before you see people munching on big bowls of raw lettuce and grilled chicken. At a Shanghai mall food court, there was an experimental salad bar like what you would find in any American city during the lunch rush, but there was NO ONE in line. They were too distracted by all this other good stuff: 

Shengjian Bao, thewoksoflife.comShengjian Bao,

Yangrou Chuan in mall foodcourt, thewoksoflife.comYangrou Chuan in mall foodcourt,

Chinese mall foodcourt, thewoksoflife.comChinese mall foodcourt,

Sweet potato soft serve with tapioca pearls, thewoksoflife.comSweet potato soft serve with tapioca pearls,

Evidently, people in Shanghai would rather stay slim with a seaweed salad than a Western-style leafy salad! 

A Dressing for Anything!

This Chinese dressing will make your dinner planning that much easier. I would even make double, triple or quadruple this recipe and keep it refrigerated to be used throughout the week. 

It’s all in the flavor of the aromatics: garlic, ginger, Thai chilies, scallions, cilantro… The sauce is so tasty, it can be added to just about anything.

Chopping aromatics on cutting board, thewoksoflife.comChopping aromatics on cutting board,

Simply blanch or steam some vegetables, say: carrots, celery, zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, peppers, string beans, even mushrooms. You could also include some traditional Chinese add-ins like tofu, seitan, five-spiced tofu, bean threads, seaweed, wood ears, noodles, etc. 

If it’s sitting at the back of your refrigerator, chances are you can make it a part of this cold salad! 

This recipe is good for about a pound of vegetables. As with any salad dressing, add sauce to your dish until it reaches your ideal preference. 

I used this recipe for 12 ounces of seaweed salad. The seaweed tasted perfect with the tangy sauce.

Chinese seaweed salad, thewoksoflife.comChinese seaweed salad,

Here are some examples of dishes you can make:

As you can see from above, we’ve already published recipes for many of these cold dishes. But with this sauce, you can whip up an alternative version of any of those dishes!

Recipe Instructions 

In a large heat-proof bowl, arrange the minced garlic, minced ginger, the white parts of the chopped scallion, and chopped Thai chilies so they are adjacent to each other at the bottom of the bowl (don’t messily pile them all on top of each other).

Bowl with ginger, garlic, scallions, thai chili, thewoksoflife.comBowl with ginger, garlic, scallions, thai chili,

Now infuse the Sichuan peppercorns in oil. In a small pot, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil with the Sichuan peppercorns over low heat until fragrant, taking care not to burn the peppercorns. After about 10 minutes, remove the peppercorns using a fine meshed strainer or slotted spoon.

Sichuan peppercorn infused oil, thewoksoflife.comSichuan peppercorn infused oil,

Heat the infused oil just until it begins to smoke. Pour it carefully over the arranged aromatics in the bowl. It will bubble and sizzle!

Pouring hot infused oil over aromatics, thewoksoflife.comPouring hot infused oil over aromatics,

Carefully stir to evenly distribute the heat. 

Stirring aromatics in hot oil, thewoksoflife.comStirring aromatics in hot oil,

Now add in the sugar, vinegar, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, salt and five spice powder. Mix well.

Finally add in the green parts of the chopped scallion and the cilantro. (If pre-making the sauce, leave these last ingredients out and add them right before serving.) 

Stirring scallions and cilantro into sauce, thewoksoflife.comStirring scallions and cilantro into sauce,

And that’s it! A tasty Chinese salad dressing of sorts, for cold dishes to take you through the rest of the summer!

All Purpose Chinese Cold Salad Dressing, thewoksoflife.comAll Purpose Chinese Cold Salad Dressing,


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