Chichi's Chinese: Cabbage Salad

Chichi Wang

This is shredded red cabbage, dressed in soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. It's simple, with just one more vegetable and some cilantro and sesame seeds to garnish.

I caught the raw cabbage bug late in life. Which is to say, for most of my life, I thought of it in coleslaw form—and not the good kind either, but wilting cabbage smothered in white sauce that was too sweet and tasted sort of like mayonnaise gone bad. So it did not occur to me until recently that raw cabbage could actually be quite good. Sweet and a little crunchy, it can be dressed in all kinds of ways.


All last month I bought a head of red cabbage like clockwork on Saturday mornings, at the market on my way home from the library, and I would chip away at the head over the course of the week, shaving off crinkly red strands each day for a quick and easy salad. I ate pretty much the same salad every day. Raw cabbage, sautéed corn, cubes of ripe avocado, chopped cilantro, dressed in olive oil and balsamic.

This was so good that it took me a while to move into other red cabbage salads, but once I did, the territory seemed quite open and expansive. My current favorite is this dressing of soy sauce, sesame oil, and Chinkiang vinegar. I vary the sugar and amount of red chili oil I put in, depending on if I'm eating it alone or serving to others. My preference is for it to be just a little sweet, and very spicy. (For a while, I was putting Sichuan peppercorns in the dressing, but that was somehow one flavor note too many.)

I like the simplicity of the salad, but you could also make it into a more elaborate production, with more vegetables and maybe cubes of smoked tofu. That would be good too.