This Chinese Seaweed Salad is a light and healthy summer recipe that’s easy to prepare.
It makes a great side or appetizer, keeps in the fridge for a few days, and gets more flavorful each day. That’s why this recipe makes a large batch!
Our Chinese Cold Salad Dressing
Recently, we posted our all-purpose Chinese Cold Salad Dressing. I did say that you can use the dressing on any assorted blanched vegetables, noodles, or tofu. However, my plan all along was to make this Chinese Cold Seaweed Salad recipe (凉拌海带丝, liángbàn hǎidài sī), as it’s a favorite of mine!
Along with Chinese Cold Wood Ear Mushroom Salad, this is the other cold appetizer we order most often when we eat out. I always feel good about ordering it for the table because of the health benefits of seaweed.
It’s a super food that’s actually very sustainable and has a whole host of vitamins and minerals. In the wintertime, we eat seaweed soup to ward off colds, but in the summer, we switch to this refreshing seaweed salad!
What Kind of Seaweed Is Used In This Recipe?
While there are many varieties of seaweed (all edible by the way!), I only know of two kinds of seaweed frequently used in Chinese cuisine.
There’s laver (紫菜, zǐcài), which is what we use in my favorite Seaweed Egg Drop Soup, and kelp (海带, hǎidài), which is what this recipe calls for. We also use it in my Pork Bone with Lotus Root Soup and Chicken Feet Peanut Soup. Given the health benefits, seaweed shows up as a nutritious powerhouse and flavor agent in many soups.
When dried, kelp turns a much darker shade of green—almost black. You may be more familiar with these dried sheets of kelp, but I used fresh kelp in this recipe. It is a brighter green color, and came pre-sliced into long, thin “noodles.”
Kelp is quite strong in flavor, with a briny oceanic taste. It’s not as mild as the wakame seaweed used in Japanese-style seaweed salads, which is why there are some very strong flavors in the dressing––chili, raw garlic, vinegar, and ginger.
Kelp, or hǎidài, also has a savory umami element to it (case in point: MSG was actually first created in an attempt to isolate the umami in kombu/kelp).
How to Prepare Kelp Seaweed
If you have access to an Asian grocery, you should be able to find this fresh kelp individually wrapped on foam trays by the seafood area.
You can also use dried kelp, though it needs to be soaked overnight to rehydrate. If you’re using dried kelp, some come pre-sliced, while others are kept in large sheets.
When cooking with kelp (fresh or dried), it’s important to wash it a few times to get rid of sand and any slimy residue. This is especially important when using dried kelp.
Ok, on to the recipe!
Chinese Cold Seaweed Salad: Recipe Instructions
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the kelp, and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Drain and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Drain completely and set aside. (You can also run it through a salad spinner to dry it even more.)
Next, make the sauce / dressing. In a large heat-proof bowl, arrange the minced garlic, minced ginger, Thai chilies, and the white parts of the scallions so they’re next to each other at the bottom of the bowl. Don’t pile them on top of each other, as you’ll be pouring hot oil over everything, and you want it in an even layer.
Next, add 3 tablespoons of oil to a small pot or saucepan. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and let them infuse the oil over low heat for 10 minutes until fragrant. Take care not to burn the peppercorns. Scoop out the peppercorns, and turn up the heat on the oil until it’s just smoking. Then, immediately turn off the heat and pour the oil over the aromatics in your heat-proof bowl. The oil should be hot enough that the aromatics sizzle on contact.
Using a spoon, carefully stir the oil to evenly distribute the heat. Next, add the sugar, vinegar, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, salt, and five spice powder. Mix well. Finally, add the chopped green parts of the scallions and the cilantro.
Pour the dressing over the kelp…
And toss to coat. Give it a taste, and add salt if needed.
This recipe makes a large batch that can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Just make sure to use a clean utensil any time you’re handling it, as cross contamination will lead to faster spoilage.