Yunnan Mint Salad
I had this at a Yunnanese restaurant in Beijing and was blown away by the idea of a whole bowlful of beautiful mint leaves as a side with spicy food. The leaves were lightly dressed with oil and seasoning, and my approximation is below, along with some other ideas I’ve come across. I use ordinary spearmint leaves, picking perfect small ones or tearing larger leaves in half, but next year I am going to plant a Vietnamese mint from Nichols Garden Nursery.
- At least a teacupful of mint leaves per person—enthusiasts can easily eat twice that with a Sichuan or Yunnan meal. Choose small, tender leaves and tips, or tear larger leaves in half. Wash and spin dry as you would lettuce.
- Dark sesame oil
- A sprinkle of Chinese black vinegar
- Sugar and salt to taste
- The easy way to do this is to mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, tasting until you like the combination. Don’t make it too sweet, and keep the amount of dressing to a minimum—you just want to gloss the leaves, not weigh them down.
- Toss with the mint leaves and serve immediately. I’ve read other recipes that add Chinese chili oil (la jiao), but for me the contrast between the cool, crisp aromatic mint and the spicy chicken or tofu dishes is what makes this so special.