There is an infinitely beautiful thing about salad. For me, it’s the one type of food that you can actually eat everyday, and everyday it could be completely different. While you will usually have a green leaf vegetable base, you can put literally almost anything into a salad and that leads to nearly limitless variety. So, one day you can have chunks of tuna and chicken mixed together. Another day, if you feel completely in a vegan mood, you can have cashew nuts, edamame, and an a slew of veggies topped with dairy-free vinaigrette. If you want to be a red meat carnivore, you can throw in steak chunks, and when mixed with lettuce, tomato, and onion, it’s like eating the innards of a sandwich without bread.
Salad is also a simple western food that is sometimes hard to locate in a smaller Chinese city like Changzhou. Yes, Starbucks and places like Paris Baguette sell ready-made ones for when you are on the go. Sure, places like Monkey King will offer higher end, more gourmet, and more expensive ones. These are often fixed-menu things, and they do not offer the infinite variety that could be. There is a huge sense of freedom that comes with a real salad bar. And, honestly, Changzhou really hasn’t had an honest to God salad bar that, quite frankly, Americans take for granted when back home.
Well, that changed recently. Salad Stuff opened in Xinbei, recently. It’s currently my favorite place to eat in all of Changzhou, and I have lunch there all the time. It gives you the “build your own” experience where can pick stuff on random whims. Want chickpeas? Sure! Radish slices? Sure! Bassa fish? Sure! Salad Stuff allows a diner these endless options in a rather unique way.
The ingredients are behind a glass counter. You actually don’t touch anything. In front of that glass, you see a series of poker chips. Each of them has the ingredient’s name written in both Chinese and in English. So, there is a chip for broccoli, a chip for tofu, a chip for carrots, and so on. Once you have your handful of chips, you hand them to a cashier. Each has an internal RFID computer chip, and the cashier runs them over a counter. Your order is placed, and somebody assembles your salad and then brings it to you.
There are other comforts here, too. The manager and a lot of the staff have some capacity with English. That makes a lot of since, since this type of food is not traditionally Chinese. Sure, it does speak to the Chinese culinary love of vegetables, but salad is still a western concept that will draw lots of expats. So, in the many times I have eaten here, the customer service provided has been quite excellent.
The location is pretty good, too. Salad Stuff is in the middle of Xinbei’s media tower complex on Taihu Road. It’s next to Zoo Coffee and down the street from Istanbul Restaurant. This puts the place in walking distance from Wanda Plaza and it’s BRT bus stop.