Variations on ramen noodle salad — where crumbled dry ramen noodles stand in for croutons in a bowlful of shredded veggies and tossed in a tangy-sweet Asian dressing — have been turning up at potlucks for decades. This modernized version, lightly adapted from Amy Thielen’s “Company: The Radically Casual Art of Cooking for Others,” is lighter and less sweet than most, but just as irresistible.
Tossing the noodles and nuts first in a little simple syrup and oil and baking them as you would homemade granola adds an extra layer of toasty crunch. Protein-rich almonds and sesame seedsmakes it filling enough to serve as a vegetarian main dish. Ditching the flavor packets saves sodium. You can substitute a different sweetener for the sugar. RECIPE HERE. Serves 8 to 10 as a side, 4 to 5 as a main. – Susan Puckett
- 2 (3-ounce) packages ramen noodles (flavor packets discarded)
- 1 ½ cups (6 ounces) sliced almonds
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 5 tablespoons vegetable or any neutral-tasting oil
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 ½ tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 10 cups (about 1 ½ pounds) trimmed, rough-chopped bok choy or napa cabbage (about 1 pound), or a combination
- 1 cup trimmed and thinly sliced scallions
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- Make the brittle: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Split the ramen in half, break into bite-size pieces, and combine in a bowl with the almonds; set aside.
- In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for about a minute, or until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the oil and salt and pour the sugar syrup over the ramen and almonds; toss to coat.
- Spread out on a baking sheet, season with a few grindings of pepper, and bake until the noodles and almonds darken to a shade of caramel-brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Make the dressing: In a small jar, combine the ginger, syrup, lime juice, soy sauce, neutral oil, sesame oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper and shake until emulsified.
- Make the salad: Toss together the bok choy or cabbage and scallions in a large bowl with the sesame seeds. No more than 20 minutes before serving, add just enough of the dressing to coat the leaves and toss. Mix in half the brittle and toss again. Pile the rest of the brittle on top of the salad and serve immediately.
Note: The ramen softens the longer it sits, changing the texture — but it will still taste delicious.
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.