Editor's note: January is Vegetable Month on Serious Eats: New York! Every day this month we'll introduce you to a different vegetable dish we love. Do you have a veg dish to nominate? Let us know!
There are two Crispy Chinese Watercress Salads on the menu at Sripraphai in Woodside. I'm not saying that A-6, the salad on the regular menu, piled high with shrimp, chicken and squid isn't a great choice; but VA-2, Crispy Chinese Watercress Salad on the special vegetarian menu ($9.50) is even better, and it's a dish that I order again and again.
What makes this simple-sounding salad so special? Let's start with the namesake ingredient. Stalks of steamed Chinese watercress are dipped in batter and fried until crisp, flaky, and impossibly light. The veg is then placed over a bed of lettuce, meaty king oyster and oyster mushrooms, strips of tofu, toasted cashews and whole chillies, then dressed with a spicy, sweet, and sour combination of lime juice and chili sauce. The mushrooms add substance, the tofu soaks up the dressing, and the cashews add a nutty crunch. There is something irresistible about the combination of crisp, crunch, and chewy; vegetables, flavored with that perfect balance of heat, sour, sweet and salt. As refreshing as a deep-fried salad can get.