The holidays may look and feel a little different this year, but perhaps more than ever, we still crave special holiday dishes. Our gatherings may be smaller, but they don’t have to be any less festive. Especially if you make my hyper seasonal Asian Pear Pomegranate Salad. Fresh and vibrant, the ruby red pomegranate seeds just scream special occasion. Moreover, it not only adds a welcome bite of freshness to a rich meal, but it also doesn’t require any cooking, which is so helpful when everything else is going in and out of your oven. And with a make ahead dressing, Asian Pear Pomegranate Salad is a gift for the busy cook- even if you’re only cooking for your quarantine squad.
Make The Dressing
The dressing for Asian Pear Pomegranate Salad is really flavorful but easy to make. I recommend making a double batch because it lasts a week in the fridge, and you know you are always looking for ways to eat more leafy greens. The dressing has fish sauce, but you can sub an equal amount of coconut aminos to make it vegan. Whisked together with a few other pantry staples like toasted sesame oil for nuttiness, sriracha for a drop of heat, and soy sauce and rice wine vinegar for tangy Asian flavor, this dressing comes together in minutes and is so delicious you will find yourself pouring it over everything you have in your fridge!
Preparing the Salad
This Asian Pear Pomegranate Salad could also rightfully be called an Asian slaw. And with cabbage, fresh herbs, grated carrot, pear and pomegranate, it’s packed with fruit and veggies.
I use green cabbage, though you could easily swap that for Napa if you prefer. I cut the cabbage first and salt it. The salt will help both season and soften it. I let the cabbage drain in a colander over the sink while I prep the rest of the salad ingredients.
What’s an Asian Pear?
Asian pears, which reach their peak in winter months, look more like a yellow apple than the European pear shape you may be used to. They have a much longer shelf life as well, and stay nice and crisp. Unlike conventional pears, which can have a pronounced honeyed flavor and soft texture, Asian pears are more neutral tasting but have an amazing crunch and juiciness. They never get soft unless they are ready for the compost bin! Pick pears that feel smooth and firm and are heavy for their size. Skin color may vary between different kinds and they range from a pale yellow-green to an almost bronze color.
Cut Asian pears can turn brown when exposed to air. So to keep them pretty after I core and slice them, I dunk them in a bowl of water, where I have added half a squeezed lemon. The acid from the lemon prevents the pear from discoloring. Most Asians peel their fruit, especially apples and pears, but I like the color contrast and prefer to keep the peel. Clearly you could peel the pears as well if you choose.
Working with Pomegranates
If you’ve never cracked open a pomegranate before, it can be a little intimidating. But I have found a very easy way to get the precious arils (the bright red seeds) out. I just score the fruit along the equator, then using my thumbs, I pry the fruit apart to separate the two halves. However, I do not suggest cutting the fruit in half, as you will have a juicy mess and lose a bunch of arils. Next hold the cut side over a bowl, and tap the back of the fruit with a wooden spoon. Do this firmly and don’t be afraid to give good hard smacks to dislodge the arils.
The arils should easily fall out into your bowl. Finally, pick out any small pieces of white pith that may have fallen into the bowl and wipe up any spilled juice because it will stain. I have found this method to be by far the fastest way to easily de-seed a bunch of pomegranates.
Toss Everything Together
After prepping the cabbage, pear, and pomegranate, you toss them with all the other ingredients together in a serving bowl, and top with the dressing. The salad is great for entertaining because you can make it all ahead of time and it will stay beautiful and crisp. Just keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
Personally, I like to keep the herbs separate until I’m ready to serve because the acid in the dressing will discolor the herbs. Plus, it only takes a couple seconds to toss it again with the chopped herbs. However, leftovers taste great too as the veggies soak up more of the amazing dressing and all of the flavors have a chance to marry. And at that point, no one will be judging your green herbs!
If you make this gorgeous and vibrant Asian Pear Pomegranate Salad, let us know. Leave a comment or tag us @funkyasiankitchen, show us the goods!
A festive and bright salad, perfect for your holiday table!
- ½ head of small green cabbage, shredded (about ½ lb or 8 ounces)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large carrots, julienned or shredded
- 2 Asian pears
- ½ lemon
- 3 scallions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
- 1 handful each of cilantro, mint, and Thai basil leave, chopped
- ½ cup pomegranate arils
- 2 Tablespoons fried shallots
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 3 Tablespoons lemon juice, from 1 ½ lemons
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce*
- 3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 3 Tablespoons neutral oil
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon sriracha or other chile sauce
Make the dressing:
- Combine the garlic, lemon juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, oil, sugar, and sriracha and either whisk in a bowl or shake in a container until the sugar is dissolved.
- You can make the dressing ahead and store in the fridge. It keeps up to a week.
Prep the Salad:
- Put the cabbage into a colander and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt. Toss the cabbage to evenly dissolve the salt and then place the colander in the sink or into a large bowl. This will season and wilt the cabbage slightly, improving the texture of the salad. Let it sit while you finish prepping the other vegetables.
- In a medium bowl, add some water and then squeeze the half piece of lemon into the water and drop the lemon into the water.
- Wash the pear and then quarter and core the pear.
- Cut the pear into ¼ inch slices. Then stack the slices and slice them into matchsticks. Drop the cut pear into the lemon water to keep it from oxidizing and turning brown. Continue cutting all of the pear, dropping it into the lemon water as you finish each piece. Drain it from the water and toss out the lemon right before tossing it with the other vegetables.
- Squeeze the cabbage to eliminate some of the water and place it in a large bowl.
- Add the carrots, scallion, cilantro, mint, basil, the drained pears, pomegranate, fried shallots, and the dressing. Toss to combine.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. Keeps for a couple of hours.
*To make this vegan, substitute coconut aminos for the fish sauce.