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Kinda Thai Cole Slaw

June 28, 2012

Technically it’s a salad. Some day soon I will need to write a dedicated post clarifying my stance on this category of dishes. But right now I want to tell you what I did so I don’t forget.

But first a little bit of background.

Every week we get a lot of produce from Roxbury Farm. Some things Mrs. Fussy will not eat. Other things are challenging to get the Fussy Little Kids to enjoy. And I cannot abide waste. Fortunately, I enjoy trying to come up with ways to use the veggies nobody wants.

Yesterday I was staring down the barrel of not one, but two heads of arrowhead cabbage, a bunch of green onions and a heap of cilantro. All of which needed to get eaten. It was the cilantro that made me think Thai.

So with no recipe, or even a well-established sense of proportions, I set off to create a kinda Thai cole slaw. And I’m happy to say it’s not bad. I’d totally make this again, and I’m sure with a few tweaks this could be great.

I love slicing cabbage with a big cleaver. I’ve used mechanical shredders for mega batches of cole slaw in the past, but even then, it’s not that much faster than the knife. What is amazing though, is how much more volume a dense little cabbage takes up once it’s been shredded. So for two heads of cabbage, I grabbed the largest bowl I could find.

Beyond the cabbage went two shredded carrots, a bunch of spring onions, three raw garlic cloves, and an equivalent volume of fresh ginger pulp. The carrots were mostly for color, and used up a couple of the last ones lingering in my crisper from the carrot salad days of early spring.

Before working on the dressing though, I had to wilt the cabbage with sugar. This was my first mistake. I used a little bit too much and forgot the cardinal rule, “It’s a lot easier to add more than it is to take some away.” The initial half cup quantity seemed insufficient. So I added another half. In my defense, it was a lot of cabbage, and I knew I would need something sweet to balance the salty components of the dressing.

So I started with ⅙ cup fish sauce and ⅙ cup soy sauce. Those got mixed into the veggies. That was followed by ⅓ cup of Lion and Globe peanut oil (the one that actually tastes like peanuts). It needed some brightness, so I added the juice of a lime. That one lime became two pretty quickly.

The slaw needed more fish sauce funk. Putting in a few more squirts of the stuff into the dish wasn’t hard. But I have no idea how much I actually used. I just tasted as I went and made some corrections.

Like heat.

All that sweet needed another foil besides the salty and sour dressing to balance the dish. It would have been a good use of good fresh hot peppers. But having none until later in the season I resorted to a whole heap of dried cayenne. I love my slaw spicy.

The slaw also needed characteristic cilantro brightness. The other mistake I made in assembling this dish was thinking that I could use whole cilantro leaves. They just got sodden in the dressing and fell over on themselves, creating a bit of a mess. That’s when I bit the bullet and chopped up an unholy quantity of the fragrant green herb, and just mixed those flavors into the slaw.

That’s it. You know, besides waiting a couple of hours for it to meld.

Although last night Albany John mentioned that adding toasted coriander seeds is supposed to ease the digestive distress of eating a lot of cabbage. It’s a great idea. And it made me think of all the other Thai flavors that could have been worked into this dish but weren’t.

You know, things like tamarind or lemongrass. Sprouts and peanuts could add additional texture. Dried shrimp and pickled radish would bring some more depth of flavor. Third Auntie suggested that this slaw as could be used for Thai “tacos” with the addition of some meat.

Me? I’m going to eat it as a snack until it’s gone: morning, noon and night.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 28, 2012 11:53 am

    Next time, try wilting your cabbage with salt, not sugar.

  2. June 28, 2012 12:34 pm

    Try the seasoned rice vinegar, it nicely balances the sour/sweet/salt. I use Marukan. BTW where do you get the Lion and Globe peanut oil?

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