A traditional Japanese colorful salad made popular by American Japanese restaurants.
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What is Kani?
Kani is the Japanese word for crab so Kani Salad is a cold crab salad, usually made with cucumber but any crunchy vegetables will suffice. Kani sticks are the imitation crab sticks made from white fish that are popular to use in this Japanese crab salad. Daikon radish, green onions, shredded crunchy lettuce or cabbage, and julienned carrots work really well in this type of crab salad, or any crunchy vegetables.
Typical Japanese Kani salads are made with simple ingredients. The simplest is crab, Japanese cucumber (or any low-seed cucumber) and Kewpie mayo, a Japanese mayonnaise commonly found in Asian markets. Kewpie mayonnaise is becoming more popular so check out the Asian section of your local supermarket.
The garnishes are usually simple such as fish roe, Panko breadcrumbs or sesame seed. For extra flavor and heat, sprinkle on Sashimi Togarishi, a Japanese blend of seaweed, sesame seed and chili flakes or your favorite hot sauce for a spicy Kani salad recipe. I use Everything Bagel Sesame Blend because it has crunchy onion and garlic bits in addition to sesame seeds. For a really Spicy Kani Salad, add Sambal, Yuzo Kosho or your favorite chili sauce to the mayo when mixing.
Other variations include adding shredded carrots, red pepper, lemon juice, mango, sweet corn, avocado and greek yogurt instead of mayo.
It is very common to use imitation crab meat in this salad. In my Foods of the World Japanese cookbook, however, it calls for fresh or canned real crab meat or abalone. Today I am using imitation crab meat.
Is Kani Salad Healthy?
It depends. As usual, it depends on what you put into it. This is a vegetable and seafood salad so it can be very healthy. Most of the cold crab salads use mayo which adds processed fat, making it less healthy. To make the salad healthier, you can use less mayo or substitute another dressing for the mayo.
Sambai-zu Japanese dipping sauce is easy to make and you can serve this on the side or drizzle on top. This sauce goes well with Kani Salad and has soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, salt and water. Substitute this sauce for the mayo for a healthier version.
To make 1/2 cup of this sauce, mix:
- 2 1/2 Tbs rice vinegar
- 2 1/2 Tbs water or dashi
- 4 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp Japanese soy sauce
- pinch of salt
A Note About Japanese Salads
The Japanese do not eat ‘Western-style’ salads, raw greens tossed in a dressing. They do have vegetable dishes that are seasoned with sauces and dressings that can be eaten like a salad, a vegetable side or a course on its own. A lot of Japanese dishes are served at room temperature or chilled. This fact makes it easier to prepare meals in advance.
Aemono means mixed things – vegetables, fish or poultry mixed and tossed with dressing and sauces. Sunomono means foods with vinegar – vegetables alone or with fish seasoned with a vinegar dressing. The categories somewhat overlap and many of these dishes Westerners would refer to as a vegetable side dish or salad.
For another Asian-inspired salad, check out my Easy Asian-style Slaw Recipe that I love to bring to potlucks!
How to Make This Salad
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