This tangy, rich sambal almond butter salad is one of my favorite salads to make and eat – it’s not your average kale salad, with a creamy, salty almond butter sauce at the bottom and a bright, pickly ginger sauce at the top. Everything melds together to create the best of both worlds, in a really healthy, delicious and balanced salad. The full recipe will be at the bottom of the blog post, and if you’re looking for a quick and crave-worthy salad, I promise, you won’t regret giving nut butter salads a try!
Now, let’s talk a bit about the sauces in this recipe
It’s not cool to call this a kale salad, because at its core, this is highly inspired by a few common Asian ingredients and flavors, the two most prominent being 1) pickled ginger and 2) sambal kacang, an Indonesian peanut sauce. While this recipe does not directly replicate the traditional and authentic preparation of these flavors, it’s necessary (read: imperative) to give credit where credit is due, and reference the origin where it is called for.
Pickled ginger of course is a common condiment you see across different Asian cuisines, but it is most common in Japanese cooking, where it is called Gari. This salad mimics Gari by adding grated ginger and radishes with sugar, soy sauce and rice vinegar to essentially quickly pickle the radishes and create a dressing that is very similar in flavor to pickled ginger. It’s delicious. This style of dressing is also very similar to nước chấm, which is a Vietnamese style dipping sauce.
Now the almond butter sauce in this recipe is very reminiscent of sambal kacang, a spicy peanut sauce from Indonesia. I can’t take credit for the conception of this sauce, since these flavors together are something that have been marked as delicious for centuries.
In Indonesian preparation, the ingredients included in this sauce can span from ground roasted peanuts or peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce, tamarind and then add garlic and spices. Chilies and lemongrass are also common in preparation, so this sauce feels boring compared to the original!
All that to say, this salad is delicious, but it’s designed to nod to the flavor origins of the ingredients that it uses! It might be one of my favorite kale salads, but it’s so much more than that too <3
Sambal Almond Butter Kale & Cabbage Salad
- 1 rice cooker or pot
- 1 chef's knife
- 1 cup short grain white rice
- 2-3 globe radishes thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons peeled ginger finely grated
- 1/2 cup cilantro finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup drizzly almond butter
- 2 tablespoons raw almonds roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon sambal oelek
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 4 cups lacinato kale finely chopped
- 1 & 1/2 cups red cabbage
- 1/2 cup neutral oil for frying
- Prepare the rice according to package instructions and set aside.
- In a large bowl, add the radishes, ginger, cilantro and mix with the sugar, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and the rice vinegar. Set aside to quickly pickle.
- In another small bowl, add the almond butter, the almonds, the remaining 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and the sambal oelek. Add the warm water and stir to create a sauce. Taste and season with more soy sauce or sambal as desired.
- Add the kale to the pickled ginger dressing bowl and toss, scrunching with your hands to massage the kale and break it down to half its size. When the kale is shrunken and softened, add the cabbage and toss.
- Portion the rice into 4 equal portions, either using cookie cutters to make large circles, or just portioning them with a damp hand. The goal is to have them no more than 1" thick. Add the neutral oil to a medium pan over medium heat. When the oil is at 300°F-350°F, add the rice and fry on each side for 4-6 minutes or until golden. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
- To serve, swipe a healthy amount of the almond butter across the bottom of all four bowls. Pile the salad high on top, and crack the crispy rice over. Swirl everything together to eat.