Made this spicy slaw the other night to test out the flavors. Intended to have only a bite or two and bring the rest for lunch the next day. However, one bite turned into two, and before I knew it, the slaw had vanished.

You might be thinking, slaw, that’s not so exciting. But, this is not your ordinary coleslaw. There’s no store-bought mayo to be found (no thank you, will gladly spend a few minutes making my own when necessary); instead, the mayo has been replaced by a vibrant dressing of fish sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, Korean red pepper flakes [gochugaru], a pinch of cayenne, and a hint of sugar, which helps to balance out the saltiness of the fish sauce.

Gochugaru, sun-dried chile peppers, is the main spice in kimchi. Not exactly sure what type(s) of chiles are in the spice mix, as the label is in Korean. It has a mild-to-medium level of heat; so, if you can’t find it, you can substitute red pepper flakes, but use sparingly.

My initial idea was to make the slaw to accompany a grilled pumpkin and cumin encrusted fish (halibut or grouper) on a baguette with some homemade aioli (which puts ordinary mayo to shame). Still planning to make that, just got a little side-tracked. Instead, the past few days, I’ve enjoyed this slaw with a few pan sautéed shrimp on top.

It’s also fun to use the mandolin to slice up the vegetables (just be careful not to lose a fingertip in the process). Used a combination of red cabbage, black radish (daikon or watermelon radish would be fine as well), carrot, onion, and fennel.

An interesting tidbit: the term “coleslaw” arose in the 20th century as an Anglicisation of the Dutch term “koolsla”, a shortening of “koolsalade”, which means “cabbage salad.”

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Spicy Slaw

1/2 head of cabbage
1/2 onion
 1 large carrot
1/2 fennel bulb
1/2 black radish (watermelon or daikon)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (or 3 tablespoons [Thai] basil and 1 tablespoon spearmint), chopped
1 jalapeno or serrano, finely chopped (optional)
dressing (see below for recipe)

With a mandolin or sharp knife, thinly slice the cabbage, onion, carrot, fennel, and radish. Combine in a large bowl with the garlic, herbs, and chile.

To Finish the Dish

Half of one lime
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden brown. Set aside.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables and mix well to incorporate. Squeeze half a lime over the slaw. Mix in the toasted sesame seeds.



3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
pinch of cayenne
Note: I like to store fresh ginger in the freezer, and then use a microplane to finely grate

Mix all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.

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