Friday, January 6, 2012

South Asian Cabbage Salad

On my vacation, I spent time in Asheville, in Minnesota, and in Chicago.  This latest image comes from that last leg of my travels.

One night in Chicago I cooked dinner for some people.  We wanted something interesting, cheap, and not fussy, so... duh.  We went for baingan bharta, dal with ginger and lime, and some rice with stuff in it.  What's fun is that by this point I can make these dishes without a recipe at all.  I also realized that frying mustard seeds in the tempering oil for the dal gives the final product a wonderful extra texture.

And then to go with these dishes, I made a salad that turned out great!  It's a bit like this brussels sprout dish, but napa cabbage is so much more delicate, it doesn't need cooking.  Moreover, I used the technique, more often found in macrobiotic cooking, of "pressing" the salad to tenderize it.  Anyway, this is one of the best salads I've had, hands down, and it's EASY.  The textures are crunchy but light, and the fried spices and toasted coconut round out the generous dosage of lime juice, while the fact that those spices are cumin and mustard give the salad a bit of pungency.

South Asian Cabbage Salad

2 lbs napa cabbage (1 small whole one), shredded
2 carrots, shredded
1/2 tsp? salt
1 TB? oil
1 tsp? mustard seed
1 tsp? cumin seed
1/4 c? unsweetened coconut
lime juice (of 1/2-1 lime?), to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
(salt to taste)

1. Put cabbage and carrot in a large bowl with some salt; massage it to mix, then set aside, with several heavy plates on top pressing down on the cabbage.  Leave it that way for an hour?  If you're using regular cabbage I think the time is more important than with napa cabbage.
2. In a small frying pan, heat oil.  Fry mustard and cumin until mustard starts popping.  Turn off heat and set aside.
3. In a fry pan or toaster oven, toast the coconut until lightly browned.  Set aside to cool.
4. Toss the oil and spices with the cabbage and carrots.  Stir in coconut.  Add lime juice and red pepper flakes to taste, as well as more salt, if desired.  You could also fry dried red chilies (perhaps 1?) in the oil with the spices and omit the red pepper flakes in this step.  Serves about 4.


Upon returning home to LA, there was NOTHING perishable in my kitchen.  I had, however, made a batch of something resembling this kimchi before leaving town.  So I whipped together some noodles with tahini-tamari sauce, chili-garlic paste, kimchi, and some torn up nori.  Yum.  I guess the pre-refrigerator days are the reason things like dried seaweed and pickled cabbage even exist.

And yes, it looks a lot like the salad above, but it tastes totally different!

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