Dear Summer Sara: it’s Winter Sara, writing to you from March, because print publications take time. And because this jerk of a winter (which is no doubt a faint memory to you by now, in your stupid tank top and shorts) is barely in my rearview mirror, here is a message that I beg you to heed: squander not these temperatures! Get a tan! Wear flip-flops! And, most of all, get yourself invited to a BBQ immediately!
However, don’t do what you always do, as a general type-A-ish person who puts entirely too much pressure on herself to bring some kind of blow-everyone-away dish to every potluck, and spend a full morning of shopping and prep only to be in a terrible mood by the time the BBQ rolls around, because SO TIRED. In brief, stop taking all the fun out of a very short season when you could be eating a hot dog out of a package with your friends. You know how the saying goes: nothing beats hot dog.
Fine, you won’t listen to me. So if you must bring something homemade, bring this coleslaw. It’s easy, feeds a ton of people, goes with all manner of grilled meats and is guaranteed not to take more than 15 minutes to make. Moreover, if you ignore my advice and still care what everybody thinks of you, this dish tends to impress despite its simplicity, with its vibrant colours (purple cabbage!) and kimchi-inspired dressing.
Some coleslaw recipes recommend pre-salting the shredded cabbage for an hour or two and draining it in order to draw out excess moisture and ensure a crispier bite. But I’ve found that when using purple cabbage, which has more structural integrity than napa, you can skip this step and still get wonderfully crunchy coleslaw. You can find Korean red pepper powder at any Korean supermarket (same with the sesame seeds), but you can easily skip it, or substitute some crushed chilis in for heat. A mandolin (a.k.a. fancy cutting device) will make fast work of that cabbage, but you can still get a good fine chop with a sharp knife — just make sure the pieces are thin enough to manage with a plastic fork.
Korean Purple Cabbage Slaw
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
- 1⁄2 head purple cabbage (about 8 cups), shredded
- 3 green onions, chopped
- 60 ml (1⁄4 cup) cilantro,chopped
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) roasted sesame seeds (optional)
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 5 ml (1 tsp) ginger, minced
- 15 ml (1 tbsp) soy sauce
- 1 pinch Korean red pepper powder or crushed chili flakes (optional)
- 45 ml (3 tbsp) rice vinegar or cider vinegar
- Juice from 1⁄2 a lime
- 15 ml (1 tbsp) sesame oil
- 5 ml (1 tsp) honey or maple syrup
- In a large mixing bowl, combine cabbage, green onions and cilantro.
- In a separate small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients.
- Add well-mixed dressing to cabbage mixture, tossing to coat. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes.
- Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and toss lightly before serving.
To toast sesame seeds:
Spread them out on a cooking sheet and bake in the oven at 350°C for about 12 minutes, or until they start to brown.
This story is from our Summer 2015 issue.
Sara Chan is in-house counsel at Corus Entertainment, food enthusiast and unprofessional home chef. Her favourite food group is pork. Check out more of Sara’s great recipes.
Illustration by Jeannie Phan