Fresh. Green. Bright. Juicy. These are words I associate with the summer. Philippine summers are either famous or notorious depending on how you look at it. We can swear all we want about the heat that can get terribly oppressive, yet, there is a part of us that welcomes the summer because of the childhood memories it evokes. Carefree days in the sun, warm nights on the beach, visits to grandparents in the province and climbing trees for a first bite of the freshest and most luscious fruits imaginable.
It may be this association that makes me think of salads during the summer. Crisp green leafy vegetables, a medley of colors and textures, light, cool and every mouthful refreshing. At home, there is a salad that has become a favorite, Japanese kani salad. It is very easy to prepare and the ingredients are available in most supermarkets all year ’round.
Where does kani salad get its name? While kani is the Japanese name for crab, kani is also short for kani kama (not to be confused with kanitama or crab omelet), the imitation crab sticks that you often find in sushi rolls and one of the essential ingredients of kani salad.
It is quite easy to prepare kani salad at home (my two teenaged daughters made the salad in the photo).
- 2 cucumbers, peeled or unpeeled and seeds scooped out
- 1 carrot, peeled
- a bunch of lettuce (varieties that can retain their shape like iceberg and romaine are best), torn into bite-size pieces
- 2 fresh ripe mangoes, thinly sliced
- 100 to 150 grams of kani kama (imitation crab sticks), pulled apart into thin shreds
- ⅓ cup of Japanese mayonnaise (thinner than American mayonnaise and the flavor is different too since it is usually made with rice vinegar)
- a drizzle of sesame seed oil (use very sparingly as the taste and flavor are quite strong)
- Tobiko (orange-colored flying fish roe), optional as it is quite expensive
- Thinly slice the cucumbers and carrot, and julienne (cut into matchsticks). Alternatively, use the shredder commonly used for making buko salad.
- To serve, you can toss the cucumbers, carrot, lettuce and mangoes with the Japanese mayonnaise, drizzle with a little sasame seed oil and top with tobiko.
- If you want a prettier presentation, line each salad bowl with torn lettuce, scatter some carrot, cucumber and kani on top, drizzle the mayonnaise in a spiral, sprinkle with sesame seed oil and top with tobiko.