|Napa cabbage slaw with ginger garlic dressing. © Ryan Schierling|
I didn't eat life-changing barbecue until we moved to Austin. That was four years ago, and that means I put a lot of passable, fair-to-middlin', sometimes downright horrible smoked meat in my craw prior to immigrating to the Great Republic of Texas. In those lean years of blasé barbecue, sides were sometimes a salvation and after so many years of side-dish subsistence, I came to love them more than the main event – the meat.
Don't hate me, but in those years I really learned to appreciate the subtleties in a coleslaw or potato salad, and I started exploring... experimenting a bit. Napa cabbage is Chinese cabbage. It's not from Napa Valley. Who thought that one up? It's typically used in China, Japan and Korea, so that's how the flavors of this slaw came to be. It's a little tangy, a little sweet, with some nice ginger and garlic background and the toasted sesame oil rounds everything out with a big, rich hug. The carrots give a little bit of natural sweetness, and the daikon radish provides a very mild heat and more crunch.
If you've never worked with Napa cabbage, the outer leaves of the football-sized beast are a little thick, and a bit astringent, but if you peel enough back you'll get to the pale yellow-green, delicate insides. I use one or two of the outer leaves for their bright green color, and I don't mind the added bit of sharpness. The overall flavor is less pronounced than normal cabbage, and it's not nearly as heavy. It makes a very nice, light summer salad with grilled meat like bulgogi or flanken-style short ribs.
Napa cabbage slaw with ginger garlic dressing
1 head Napa cabbage, shredded or sliced very thin
3 carrots, peeled and grated (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 6-inch piece of daikon radish, peeled and grated (about 1-1/2 cups)
1/4 cup black sesame seeds
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Maggi Seasoning (or soy sauce)
Mix cabbage, carrot and radish together in a large bowl. In a food processor or blender, mix vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil, olive oil, ginger, garlic and Maggi seasoning. Alternately, you can throw the dressing ingredients in a large jar, seal it, and shake it like crazy until everything's combined. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture, add sesame seeds and stir well. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Stir well again before serving.