Susur Lee makes this insane slaw that's often said to have 19 ingredients. It actually has over 30, if you count all the components that make the components.
In my book, that makes this salad true restaurant food. Even though there's barely any cooking (as defined by applying heat to comestibles), there's a whole lot of prep. An impressive amount, if you eat it while dining out. A masochistic amount of prep, if you're dining in.
And yet. I had this dish more than five years ago at the now-shuttered Shang*, and I'm still thinking about it. It's a chaotic mix of flavors and textures, more cacophonous Asian night market than Brooklyn farmer's market. It's Asian without relying on easy shorthands of soy and sesame.
I make a salad almost everyday, and was cursing the fact that I spent so much time on this. But the truth is: you can taste the difference.
Here's the full recipe, if you're jonesin' for a challenge. My version is way abbreviated, definitely inferior, but a delicious addition to your dinner table.
Quick Pickled Onions: Using a mandoline, slice two red onions. Add to bowl and add one heaping tablespoon of salt and one teaspoon of sugar. Cover with vinegar and let rest for at least one hour in the refrigerator.
Salad: Get slicing. The upside is that you'll get to practice all your knife skills. The key here is to choose veggies of varying bite and juiciness. Cut for visual and mouthfeel contrast. I used: bean sprouts, snow peas, jicima, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, scallions, mint and basil. Other ideas: raw beets, napa cabbage, radish, chayote.
Crispies: Slice and deep-fry shallots, garlic, and lemongrass. Drain on paper towels. Toast peanuts and sesame seeds.
Dressing: Mix pickled ginger, fish sauce, rice vinegar, a little bit of the oil from the crispies, and a little bit of the pickling juice from the onions.
Now, mix everything together, making sure to add that crispies at the last moment so they stay...crunchy.
* Shang is actually featured in BAD TASTE. The fictitious restaurant Panh Ho is a cross between Shang and SHO Shaun Hergatt (both shuttered, I'm afraid).