As sometimes happens when I open my produce drawer, I found myself one day with half a head of napa cabbage and no idea what to do with it. I had a vague idea I would try grilling it, and a google search led me to a recipe involving spicy Chinese mustard and bacon from a respected cookbook author/food magazine magnate that turned out so inedible I had to throw the whole thing in the trash (a little spicy mustard goes a very long way). I really, really hate throwing food away, so it took a while for me to stop being angry enough about this episode to circle back to what was actually an intriguing idea to me, riffing on a bacon spinach salad with sweet and crisp napa cabbage and spicy mustard.
I was willing to chalk up the failed attempt to my own mistakes, but reading the recipe again only convinced me that the ingredient proportions were way off, so I researched a bunch of spinach salads with bacon dressing and came up with my own version. This one is perfectly balanced: a little spicy, a little sweet, and the perfect line between healthy and indulgent with fresh cabbage and scallions dressed with bacon. Trust me, it’s going nowhere near the trash.
Napa Cabbage Salad with Spicy Bacon Dressing
1 small head napa cabbage
4 large scallions
2 tsp mustard powder (see note)
2 tsp water
8 strips of bacon
3 tbs rice vinegar
2 tsp honey
salt and pepper, to taste (use white pepper if you have it)
1 clove garlic, minced
4 eggs, hard boiled and sliced
- Slice cabbage into thin ribbons and set aside in a large bowl. Thinly slice the scallions and add to the bowl with the cabbage.
- Combine the mustard powder and water in a small bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.
- Stack bacon slices on top of each other and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces. Fry in a medium skillet until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Measure out 3 tbs bacon fat and discard the rest.
- Add 3 tbs bacon fat back into the pan. Add the garlic, vinegar, honey, pepper, salt, and half of the mustard mixture and whisk to combine. Taste and add more mustard if desired.
- Toss the dressing with the cabbage and scallions, then transfer to plates and garnish with the bacon and egg slices.
- The spicy mustard you get in packets with takeout or find in a small bowl on the table at a Chinese restaurant is apparently what you get when you mix mustard powder with water, which I did not know but was ecstatic to find out, because I have not been able to find Chinese style mustard in a grocery store but I have a jar of mustard powder in my pantry that gets very little use. If you do have already prepared Chinese style mustard, just sub that in instead.