A copy-cat recipe of the classic Oriental Salad (小菜) dish served at world-renowned Taiwanese restaurant Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐). The dish consists of kombu, vermicelli noodles, bean curd, and bean sprouts tossed in a fragrant savory vinegar dressing.
Considering I order this dish every time I step in the restaurant, I pretty much remember the taste like I just had it yesterday. And I think this is very close. I would say about 85-90% there. Perhaps the remaining 10% is that familiar Din Tai Fung ambiance you don’t get from eating this at home.
- Kelp/Kombu. The large, dried sheet kind is ideal for this recipe. To prepare the Kombu, start by bringing around 1 Liter of water to boil in a pot. Place the Kombu pieces in (you may want to cut them up so they can be fully submerged) and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for around 30 minutes, or until Kombu is soft but not rubbery. Remove the Kombu from the pot and slice into thin long strips. Set aside. Reserve the cooking liquid in a mason jar as well. This cooking liquid is also known as Kombu Dashi, a Japanese soup stock that can be used in a variety of dishes. For example, I use it in my Bell Pepper “Akami” Nigiri for an added fishy flavor.
- Vermicelli Noodles (冬粉). To prepare the Vermicelli Noodles, Do as the package instructions — usually this involves soaking in room temperature water (around 10 minutes) and boiling in water (around 2-3 minutes). Strain the noodles and set aside.
- Fresh Bean Sprouts. In the same pot of boiling water, blanch the fresh bean sprouts for just 1-2 minutes. Be sure not to overcook them — they should still be crunchy. Strain and set aside.
- Fried Bean Curd. See the picture below for the type I’m referring to. For this recipe, I sliced the fried bean curd into thin long strips instead of cubes. In the same pot of boiling water, blanch the bean curd for 1 minute. Carefully strain (they are fragile) and set aside. Note: blanch this last as it releases oil & makes your water oily.
Storing & Re-heating
If you do not finish the oriental salad in one sitting, you can keep it in the refrigerator a few days. Once you let the vermicelli salad sit in the fridge overnight, the starches in the noodles will harden (which makes them unpalatable). To return them back into their original texture, simply re-heat them in the microwave. I usually go for two 15 second heating intervals, stirring in between.