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They say that necessity is the mother of invention and I have definitely found this to be true with recipe creation. This oriental cabbage salad is one of those recipes that came about at a moment when there were very few ingredients to choose from. In these situations, I am often surprised by how an interesting dish can come together with the simplest of combinations.
I find I have my favorite ingredients that I usually go to on a daily basis. I tend to enjoy salads with lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and avocado because they are so hydrating and refreshing. But there are so many other veggies you can eat raw to create a delicious salad and it doesn’t always have to involve a base of leafy greens.
I created this red cabbage slaw recipe at the end of the week, the day before our regular grocery haul, so there wasn’t much in the house. I found some red cabbage and one carrot in the fridge along with a handful of sugar snap peas and Thai basil. It didn’t look promising but I went with the inspiration from some of the salads I enjoyed in Thailand and added a sweet and spicy dressing and was pleasantly surprised how it turned out.
This salad seems like a nice option for the cooler months when cabbage is in season. Red cabbage is a superior choice than regular white cabbage because it has a much better nutritional profile. Compared to white cabbage the red ones have twice as much iron, vitamin C and vitamin K, and ten times more beta carotene.
Scientists have identified 36 anthocyanins in red cabbage, which are antioxidants that may protect against cancer, improve brain function, and support a healthy heart. Research also shows that much of the anthocyanin content is destroyed by cooking, so eating red cabbage raw is the best way to gain the benefits of these phytonutrients.
Cabbage, in general, is also a good choice if you are on a budget as it is generally inexpensive and goes a long way. It is ranked fourth on the “Clean 15” list from the Environmental Working Group, which means it is one of the vegetables with the lowest likelihood of containing pesticide residues. So this also makes it less important to buy organic compared to other vegetables.
To shred the cabbage I like to use my ceramic mandoline because it slices the veggies really thin, making a nicer texture as well as being easier on digestion. If you don’t have one just try to slice the cabbage as finely as you can. I used a regular box grater for the carrots.
Thai basil has a really unique flavor, which is more pungent with a hint of aniseed. I really enjoy it and it is part of what makes this a Thai salad – even though this is not a traditional Thai recipe. If you find it too strong or if it isn’t available in your area then regular basil should work just fine, or you could try it with cilantro. A combination of basil and cilantro would also be nice.
Normally in a Thai salad, I would use shallots because they are crunchier and have a slightly milder flavor, but red onions were what I had on hand and they worked just fine. I also sliced these thinly with the mandoline.
The garlic and cayenne can be pretty strong but it wouldn’t be a Thai salad without some heat! Of course, if you are sensitive you can reduce the amounts or just leave them out.
The recipe contains Vega Omega Oil, which is one of my favorite oils to use in salads for its mild nutty flavor and for a boost of essential fatty acids. If you prefer you could try using hempseed, sesame or even a good quality olive oil instead.
I think of this recipe as more of an appetizer salad or side dish, rather than a complete meal in itself. There’s only so much raw cabbage most of us can eat since it is more difficult to digest than the tender leafy greens. Though if you add half an avocado on the side, along with some other raw or steamed veggies, this could become a pretty satisfying meal.
- 2 cups red cabbage shredded
- 1/2 cup sugar snap peas chopped
- 1 medium carrot grated
- 1/4 red onion sliced thin
- 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 1 tangerine juiced
- 2 limes juiced
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons Vega Omega oil
- Put garlic, tangerine juice, lime juice, coconut sugar, salt, cayenne pepper and oil in a large salad bowl and whisk everything together to make the dressing.
- Add the shredded cabbage, sugar snap peas, carrot, red onion and Thai basil and toss it all together with the dressing.
- Enjoy immediately
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