Until very recently, I had never tried coleslaw. That statement alone will set off the alarms, alerting all of Texas that I am indeed, a West Coast transplant. Fair enough. Coleslaw is a staple to BBQ culture and people take their slaw seriously here. Yet, given both my upbringing and disdain for mayo, I’ve never gravitated towards coleslaw. That was until I went to Round Top, Texas last Spring. It was there that I tried my first plate of barbecue from Paw Paw’s Firehouse – a local joint that would be Guy Fieri approved. I tried their jalapeño coleslaw and to both my surprise and delight, it tasted pretty dang good. I may not have a love affair with coleslaw the way that other Texans do, but it opened my mind to a world of possibilities that the word “slaw” offers.
Before the idea to make my own slaw ever crossed my mind though, I purchased all the ingredients to make the Tik Tok famous Baked by Melissa green goddess salad. I love the idea of a finely chopped salad and decided to give her recipe a go, though I ended up not loving it quite as much as I thought. It was definitely tasty, but the dressing wasn’t my cup of tea and I didn’t go back craving bite after bite the way that I had expected. So, rather than discard all the leftover cabbage and cucumber I had sitting around in my fridge, I decided to whip up a different salad.
To be completely candid, I threw the salad together without much direction. I knew I had cabbage and cucumber though, which are common ingredients in Asian cuisine. I also knew that I needed some sort of protein for sustenance, and blindly reached into my pantry for any sort of nut. Remarkably, I pulled out a jar of peanuts that I didn’t even know I had. In fact, I use peanuts so rarely in cooking that I actually had to check the expiration date before I chopped them up for the salad. Now I had three components towards a complete dish and just needed a dressing. I quickly realized I had everything needed for a sesame ginger vinaigrette…well, except for sesame oil. What I did have though, was actually just what this recipe needed to make it a Thai peanut slaw – peanut oil!
And there you have it! I eventually modified the recipe to include cilantro and green onion for an extra punch of flavor, and deemed this salad to be one of my favorite salads that I had made to date.
What’s in this Salad:
- Rice Vinegar: An essential in Asian cuisine, rice vinegar has a slightly sweet, yet mildly acidic flavor that creates the tangy base for the dressing. I used unseasoned rice vinegar here just out of preference though either kind should work!
- Coconut Aminos: The healthier, gluten-free cousin to soy sauce, I actually prefer the taste of coconut aminos because it is slightly sweeter and a tad less salty than soy sauce. You can find coconut aminos at most grocery stores, including Trader Joe’s, who makes a great one. That said, you can substitute soy sauce here if you prefer.
- Chili Paste: Although there is chili paste in the dressing, this is not an overtly spicy dish by any means. Instead, it creates more of a sweet and spicy flavor that is tangy rather than fiery. If you want to amplify the spice factor, I would do a full teaspoon of chili paste.
- Ginger: It might sound like a lot, but yes, this dressing calls for 2 full teaspoons of grated ginger. Just trust me here; it adds a bright zing to the dressing that is essential.
- Napa Cabbage: Sturdy, crunchy cabbage is the star of this slaw. Just as important as flavor is texture, and shredded cabbage gives this slaw a delightful crunch.
- Chopped Peanuts: A nice counterpart to the acid in this recipe, chopped, dry-roasted peanuts bring in a nice source of protein and fat to round out the flavors in this dish.
- 1 head Napa cabbage
- 2 scallions (I use both the green and white parts)
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
- 4 mini cucumbers thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts (chopped)
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp coconut aminos
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
- 2 tsp fresh grated ginger
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp chili paste
- pinch of salt to taste
- Start by whisking together the coconut aminos, rice vinegar, peanut oil, grated ginger, honey, chili paste, garlic, and salt. Once everything is fully combined, set the dressing aside.
- Next, finely shred the Napa cabbage and add it to a large bowl.
- Then, leaving the skin on, thinly slice the cucumbers so that they are razor thin (if you want to use a mandoline here, it will ensure you get even slices). Add the sliced cucumber to the cabbage in the bowl.
- Thinly slice the scallions and toss them into the bowl.
- Give the cilantro a rough chop and add it in as well.
- Now, pour in the dressing and toss to coat the salad.* (see note if not serving immediately).
- Finally, give the peanuts a good chop and sprinkle them over the top of the salad. Now it's ready to enjoy!
*If you plan on making this recipe ahead of time, wait until you serve it to toss it in the dressing. Even though cabbage has a firm structure, the salad will not have the same delightful crunch if you dress it well before you plan on eating it.