Back in the 1990s I was studying away from home during the summers working on a Master's degree in education. Leaving behind a husband and two young boys was hard but for four summers it was a means to an end. One joyful summer they all came to visit for four of the weeks and had a great time visiting with friends, visiting the zoo, swimming pools and parks while I went to classes and did as much homework as I could before they came traipsing back from their day trips. Peter turned seven that summer and I was as happy as could be not to miss another of his special days.
While I was studying I was stayed at the school dormitory and ate at the school cafeteria. The dormitory wasn't too bad as most of us were teachers working on a master's degree and that gave us the opportunity to discuss many of the topics that came up in class or in our classrooms back home.
The cafeteria was another thing. Most of the food was good but there were days I wondered what the cook was thinking when some of the food was cooked. On those days I'd have a look at the salad bar. One particularly unappetizing day I went to the salad bar to see a rather strange looking salad looking back at me. I'd never seen it before. It looked a little like coleslaw but different. Being the adventurous sort when it comes to tasting new foods I took a serving.
Settling down at the table I took a bite of the salad and was delighted with the flavours in my mouth. I determined it was a cabbage salad of some kind with nuts, sunflower seeds, noodles and some kind of sweet and salty dressing. It was like nothing I'd ever tasted before. For some reason or other I never asked anyone in the cafeteria for the recipe and it was never served again while I was there that summer.
I never forgot the salad. The following summer when I was at the bookstore I came across one of those church published cookbooks that are popular fundraisers. I like those cookbooks so I took this one off the rack and started thumbing through to see what the recipes looked like. Well, what do you know, as I was flicking through the pages, my eye caught one of the titles, "Oriental Cabbage Salad" and I immediately knew it was THE SALAD. A quick reading of the recipe confirmed my belief and I hurriedly scribbled down the recipe (thus avoiding buying the book). Of course, since that fateful day, I've found thousands of recipes for cabbage salad or something similar floating around the internet-- some probably the same as this one.
Oriental Cabbage Salad has been a raging success with both family and friends. I've given out the recipe dozens of times and have requests to make it over and over again. During the years I have added an optional ingredient in the way of sweet pepper. I sometimes add a handful of diced pepper which gives the salad a little different flavour for a change.
(An added note to say some people like the noodles added first so they'll soften but I think they are best crunchy!)
Oriental Cabbage Salad
1 small to medium cabbage or ½ head large cabbage, chopped fine (about 6 cups)
6 green onions, chopped
⅔ cup shelled unsalted sunflower seeds, toasted
⅔ cup slivered unsalted almonds, toasted
½ cup small dice red or green sweet pepper (any colour will do), optional
1 package oriental flavour Ramen noodles broken into pieces (hold back seasoning for dressing)
4½ tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon pepper or to taste
½ cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 package Ramen noodle seasoning (came with noodles)
Mix all salad ingredients, except the noodles. Set aside.
Mix all dressing ingredients. I put the dressing ingredients in a covered jar and shake them all together. Pour dressing over salad mixture and toss together. Let marinate in refrigerator for about 4 to 6 hours.
Just before serving mix in the broken Ramen noodles.
Makes 8-10 servings.
Using a sharp knife, finely chop the cabbage as you would for cole slaw.
Slice the green onions.
Mix all salad ingredient, except noodles, together in a large mixing bowl.
Remove the seasoning pack from the noodles. It will be used in the dressing.
Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or even better, a jar with a lid. Mix or shake all ingredients together. Don't forget to add the seasoning pack from the noodles.
Add the dressing to the salad and mix well until everything is well combined.
I really like red pepper in this salad so if I have some in it goes.
Mix everything up and let marinate a few hours.
Just before serving, crush the noodles in small pieces and mix through the salad.
Crunchy, sweet and salty. Yummy Cabbage Salad!