Sweet and Spicy Asian Sesame Cabbage Salad




Once upon a time, there was something even more delicious than food: the way they talked when they were babies. In 1992, my mother saved all the bright objects she could find just so that she could hold them up and make Megan say “wellow.”

We spent a very humid week on Kiawah Island the summer Brian was 4. He was terribly upset about all the things he couldn’t do because of the heat; in a moment of despair, he finally announced, “I’m a wooser.” Around that time, he envisioned an alternate society he named, “The Planet Dumock, home of Awiens and Giant Swugs.”

The one that stuck (you know how they sometimes stick) was “swaw.” So, here I am, two decades later, at the farmer’s market, and I see the purple cabbage, and inside my own head, I say to myself, “I think I’ll make some swaw.”




I’ve always loved me a good swaw. I have memories of my dad standing at the fridge late at night in his t shirt and boxers, snacking on coleslaw. I have been known to do the same. Minus the boxers. My problem with making slaw has always been about water. Cabbage, like many vegetables, is loaded with water. When you first dress the slaw, the cabbage is a little too crunchy. And then when the dressing has time to do its work and wilt the rawness away, the dressing gets too watery.

The geniuses at America’s Test Kitchen solved the problem. If you preseason the cabbage with salt and/or sugar for an hour or more, the cabbage wilts and sheds excess liquid so that when you dress the slaw, the texture is perfect and the dressing doesn’t dilute. Brilliant!

This recipe is an old favorite. I have nothing against a creamy cabbage salad, but I just love the crunchy, sweet, sour, salty, spicy, umami quality of a good asian slaw. This one hits all the notes. It tastes great with Honey Sesame Ginger Glazed Salmon Crispy Chicken, or Glazed Tofu. And it is wonderful, late at night, by the light of the refrigerator, no matter what you’re wearing.





Sweet and Spicy Asian Sesame Cabbage Salad

The is naturally vegan and gluten free as long as you use GF soy sauce. To make it paleo, simply substitute coconut aminos for the soy and coconut sugar for the cane sugar.

This is great to make ahead for parties or holidays.

Serves 6-8

½ large head purple cabbage, shredded*
1 tbs. sea salt
1 tbs. cane sugar
1 large carrot, shredded or julinenned
1 tbs. minced fresh or candied ginger
2 scallions, sliced on the bias, reserve half of one for garnish
3 tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbs. rice wine vinegar
1 tbs. honey
1 tbs. toasted sesame oil
1 tbs. sesame seeds, reserve a few for garnish
1 tsp. spicy chili oil (or other spicy hot sauce)

*This may be made with green cabbage or with a combo of red and green.

Place the cabbage in a large colander and sprinkle with the salt and sugar. Toss well, place on a plate, and let drain for 1-2 hours. It is not absolutely necessary, but I like to place the whole mass in a towel and give it a good squeeze after it drains. Place the cabbage in a big bowl and add the carrots and ginger.

Mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl, pour them over the salad, and toss. Serve immediately or refrigerate. This will keep well for 4-6 days.





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2 Responses to Sweet and Spicy Asian Sesame Cabbage Salad

  1. Made this salad last night; love the pickled taste of the seasoned red cabbage; I bet this would keep well with your technique to drain out the water, but I wouldn’t know as the two of us polished this off in one sitting! LOVE the dressing; perfect mix of flavors; this recipe is a staple for me now for sure.


  2. debspots says:

    This makes me so happy, Laurel! Especially since we now know we are “related!”


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