This salad bites back

There are hundreds — if not thousands —of regional specialty dishes in China, but one Northern classic is gaining popularity, even here in the States. Joyce Xia, regional manager for Allrecipes Asia, tells us about it.

Photo: Kim Cornelison

What Is Tiger Salad?

When you think of Chinese food, raw vegetable salads probably don't leap to mind. But China is a huge country, with food traditions that vary greatly from region to region. And while vegetables are almost always served cooked in Southern China, Northerners have long enjoyed simple dishes involving raw vegetables, which keep without refrigeration in the North's cooler, drier climate.

A really good example that's begun spreading beyond North China, even to restaurants in America, is Tiger Salad: strips of crisp, raw veggies tossed with cilantro, rice vinegar, and crushed red pepper. It's typically served as a side dish with heavier foods — and at room temperature, because many Chinese believe it's bad for your health to consume cold foods. There are lots of variations: Some use carrots, zucchini, green chiles, tomatoes, garlic, or ginger; some make it really spicy; some add tofu or crushed peanuts. But all versions have a distinct sour-spicy flavor.

So why the name? There are several theories, none involving an actual tiger: Because they're all cut in similar-sized strips, the veggies look like they've been shredded by a tiger. The salad can have a bold (ferocious?) bite. One Chinese folktale says a newlywed wife trying to impress her mother-in-law created the salad by slicing up all the vegetables she could find. The mother-in-law proclaimed, "You really are a tiger," which is a condescending comment in certain dialects. Whatever you call it, you'll agree that this salad has earned its stripes! — Applesauce

Try the recipe: Tiger Salad

"This is a popular salad from Northern China that's gaining popularity in the United States. Toss in peanuts, shrimp, or tofu for some protein." — Sunday

Photo of Tiger Salad by Sunday
Photo: Allrecipes Magazine

More to Explore

Check out our collection of Chinese Recipes.

This article originally appeared in the June/July/August 2016 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.