Asian Cabbage Salad

This is a bit of an odd one. I had someone describe it as ‘smelly, but tastes unexpectedly great’. And thus, I tend to call this ‘smelly salad’ but that is mostly due to the fish sauce in the dressing. 

Not my recipe, came from an old asian cookbook.

Serves 4, Preparation time: 20m, Cooking time: 15m

The Stuff

  • 1/2 Napa cabbage, sliced in strips
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced in matchsticks
  • 2 large red chilis
  • 6 spring onions, sliced in rings
  • 100 g of crushed peanuts
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil

  For the dressing:

  • 125ml of coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp of fish sauce
  • juice of 1 lime

The Cook

  1. Make the dressing by combining the ingredients. Give it a stir and put in fridge.

  2. Optional: blanche the cabbage by pouring over boiling water. Not too much, you don’t want it turn into mush. Let it drain and dry. Skip if you like the crunch.

  3. Put a skillet on medium heat. Add the crushed cashews and roast until golden. Take ‘m out and let cool.

  4. Add oil to the skillet and fry the sliced garlic, like mini french fries. Once brown and crunchy, take out and let the oil leak off on a paper towel. 

  5. Remove the seeds from the chilis, cut into long strips and fry in the same skillet. Once done, take out and let the oil leak.

  6. In the same skillet, quickly fry the onions.

  7. Add all the ingredients in a single bowl and add the dressing. 

The Nuts and Bolts

This salad might be one of my all-time favourites. It is a great combination of the super-healthy Napa cabbage, the crunch of peanuts and fried garlic and the kick of the chilis all mixed together by an unusual but o so good dressing which is so good, it might even be the centerpiece of this salad. If you’re making this for other people, remember to let them smell the dressing beforehand without telling them it’s gonna be the dressing. The general reaction is one of disdain and the ‘sour lemon face’. One of the ingredients is fish-sauce, which is indeed quite smelly, but usually it is mixed in with a whole bunch of other smells and flavours which takes the edge of the fishy smell. In this dressing, the fishsauce smell is there and is there to stay.

  1. Right, prep time. As always, make sure you have all your ingredients within reach. Put a kettle on with about 1 liter of water. Start by making the dressing. Nothing fancy, just add all the ingredients together and give it a quick whisk. To help getting most of the lime juice out, before cutting it in half, place it on a cutting board, press down on it quite heavily and roll it around.

  2. Starting with the cabbage, start cutting it in slices. Now, I used to just start at the top, but then you only use the more leafy, top bits, and as leftover, you would mostly have the bottom, thicker bits. Not great if you want to use it for another day. So you’re better of taking of half of the leaves, or just cut the cabbage in half, length-wise.
    You can use them raw, it is actually quite a mild cabbage, but if you rather have it more done, follow the next step: put all the cabbage in a colander, and set in the sink. Quickly blanche the cabbage by pouring over boiling water until just a bit tender. You don’t want it too soft. Let the water leak and steam out.

  3. Next up: cutting the goodies. Cut the garlic length-wise in 1mm thick slices, then into 1mm thick matchsticks. Remove the seeds and white pith from the chilis. Cut into small strips. For the onions, cut them into rings, both the white and green bits. Lastly, crush the peanuts in your favourite way. I usually go nuts in my mortar, but feel free to use a heavy skillet to crush em.

  4. Speaking of a skillet, fire up your stove and put on the skillet, medium heat. Start by roasting the peanuts. Don’t do as I always do and forget about em for too long. Keep moving the skillet to get a nice golden color all round. Once you have that, take out the peanuts.

  5. Add a splash of oil, wait until the oil is hot and start frying up the garlic until nice and golden. They should taste sweet and not too bitter. Bitter means you’ve overdone it. Put everything on a paper towl and take off as much oil as you can.

  6. With the skillet still on a medium fire, add oil if necessary and chuck in the chilis and fry until soft. As with the garlic, take out and put on a paper towel. Repeat the process once again with the onions.

  7. Time to make the salad! Put the cabbage in a bowl, add the dressing and mix it up. Add the garlic, chili and onions over the top and finish off with the crushed peanuts. That should be it!