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Vietnamese chicken cabbage salad wins Anything Goes with Cabbage contest

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July 23, 2014

Each year when the Elkhart County 4-H Fair rolls around, the Anything Goes contest challenges Elkhart County cooks to get creative with a different vegetable. The contest has been hosted by Sweet Corn Charlie’s for over 10 years, and this year owner Chuck Mohler chose cabbage.

Mohler said he couldn’t find a single fault with the winner of the “Anything Goes with Locally Grown Cabbage” contest Wednesday, July 23, at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds. Even after the contest concluded, Mohler stood munching May Beane’s Vietnamese Chicken Cabbage Salad with two fingers.

The first place dish stood out among 12 entries for Mohler, who judged with his wife and two sons, because “it was the whole package — both healthy and delicious. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it.”

Beane, of Elkhart, is a self-proclaimed homemaker who has been involved in everything from clothing and flower arrangements to jewelry and sewing for the past 26 years. She entered the Anything Goes contest for the first time with a salad inspired by her birthplace, Vietnam. Beane moved to Elkhart more than 45 years ago but is still fluent in Thai, French and Vietnamese from her many travels, and those experiences influence her cooking.

Her Vietnamese Chicken Cabbage Salad is a main dish she makes every few weeks, with chicken and shredded cabbage, carrots cut into the shapes of hearts (for presentation), peanuts, lemon mint from her garden and the option of two dressings — one sweet and the other spicy. The dish was presented with chopsticks and rice.

“I made the recipe myself, but changed it up a little bit to work with the American tongue,” Beane said. “I made it spicy. And I have a big garden where I grow everything myself — although not the cabbage. That’s too much work for me.”

The runner-up recipe, Reuben Chicken by Sally Kyle of Goshen, uses cabbage in the form of sauerkraut. In third place, Fancheon Resler of Albion made a Cabbage Au Gratin with bacon, and Carol Anglemyer of Goshen made a Scandinavian Red Cabbage for a fourth-place finish.

Mohler said he will will continue the tradition next year with a summer squash contest. “We want to promote new ideas with vegetables that haven’t been tried before,” he said.

Try a Vietnamese chicken and mint salad or Asian chicken and cabbage salad from Bon Appetit if you’re feeling inspired by Beane’s winning creation.

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