When I was in Austin visiting my family I spotted a new cookbook on my mom’s shelf: Vietnamese Fusion Vegetarian Cuisine by Chat Mingkwan. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make Vietnamese food, so I asked if I could borrow it. My mom had already flagged the recipe for Vietnamese Coleslaw, and so I decided to start there.
Ingredients for dressing
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice (I used lime)
- 2 Tbs. soy sauce (Maybe cut to 1.5 Tbs? I used regular soy sauce, but the original recipe called for light soy sauce, which is actually saltier than regular)
- 2 Tbs. sugar
- 1 Tbs. minced garlic
- 1 Tbs. minced fresh red chiles (jalapeno, serrano, or hot Thai chiles)
Ingredients for salad
- 1 pound firm tofu (I used a medium tofu) + oil to bake or fry
- 2 cups matchstick-sliced green cabbage
- 2 cups matchstick-sliced red cabbage (I used napa cabbage for both types)
- 1/2 cup matchstick-sliced carrots
- 1/2 cup finely sliced (chiffonade) mint
- 2 Tbs. chiffonaded Vietnamese mint (rau ram)
- 2 Tbs. finely chopped cilantro
- 2 Tbs. chopped roasted peanuts
- 1 bag (4-6 ounces) vegetables chips of your choice (I skipped this)
- To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.
- To make the salad, slice the tofu into long, thin, julienne strips. Either pan-fry it in a bit of oil or bake it on an oiled cookie sheet until light brown and crunchy on the outside.
- Just before serving, gently toss the tofu, cabbages, carrots, mints, and cilantro in a large bowl. Add two-thirds of the dressing, and toss to combine well. Taste and add more dressing if needed.
- Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle with the peanuts, and garnish with vegetable chips.
Mingkwan says this serves 6, and indeed it makes a good-sized bowl of coleslaw. But Derek and I ate it for lunch and managed to finish it all off between the two of us. Granted, I was quite full afterwards! I would say this makes 6 small side dishes or 2-3 main dishes.
I used mixed peanuts/cashews, and probably twice as much as called for. I skipped the vegetable chips though.
When I pan-fried the tofu I didn’t add any seasoning at all — not even salt. I was worried that the tofu would end up bland, but it soaked up enough of the dressing that it was perfectly tasty. I used about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to pan-fry my tofu in a 12-inch skillet, but I’m sure I could have used less, since there’s already plenty of fat in this recipe from the tofu and peanuts.
I’d never cooked with rau ram before, and I’m still not sure I know exactly what it tastes like, but there certainly was an unusual herbal note in the salad. I liked it!
Overall this salad turned out very well. The flavors were well balanced and I liked the high quantity of herbs and tofu. The salad tasted very much like something I’d get at a Thai restaurant. I’ll definitely make it again! The only issue is that it is a bit too salty. I’d either use low-sodium soy sauce or cut back on the soy sauce a tad.
Nutritional stats for recipe with only Napa cabbage but without the vegetable chips and with 1/2 Tbs. of olive oil to cook the tofu. 41% fat, 31% carbs, 29% protein.
Serving Size: 1/2 recipe
|Amount Per Serving|
I wanted to use up the rest of my napa cabbage, but I didn’t want to make the exact same recipe. Instead I made this recipe that I found online: Napa Cabbage Salad with Red Bell Pepper, Cilantro, Peanuts, and Dijon-Ginger Dressing. I didn’t have peanut so used cashews instead. The salad came out fine but was pretty boring. It’s possible that I put in two much cabbage. I did use half of a large head of cabbage, but I didn’t check whether it was 5-6 cups. The dressing seemed to need more salt and I couldn’t really taste the mustard. The salad was very pretty though.
Update December 2012:
I made this recipe for dinner along with pad thai as an appetizer and a thai red curry with winter vegetables. I used half red cabbage and half napa this time, and I couldn’t find any rau ram so I subbed in Thai basil. I made the dressing and chopped the veggies way ahead of time, but I only mixed the veggies and herbs with the dressing about one hour before we were going to eat. Still, in that one hour the cabbage seemed to lose a lot of water and water down the dressing. The salad tasted a bit blah. I added quite a bit more lime juice, which helped, but still the texture of the veggies was a bit off. The whole salad seemed to lose about half its volume. I doubled the peanuts to four tablespoons, but still I didn’t taste them much. I missed the rau ram flavor. The Thai basil didn’t add much. I cut the tofu in thin strips and baked it on an oiled cookie sheet until crisp, but then the tofu sat in the fridge for half a day and ended up a bit hard. I still liked it but Derek said the texture wasn’t a bit tough.