We're often told that to eat healthy, we should eat like a rainbow. This means that we need to include fruits and vegetables of different colors in our diet. This recipe is full of green, purple and orange from the napa cabbage, purple cabbage and carrots. Cabbage is full of antioxidants, vitamin K, vitamin C and fiber, and is low in calories. Carrots are high in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium.
This recipe can be customized with just about any vegetables you like and have on hand. In the photo above, I made a very simple version of this salad because I was short on time, with just napa cabbage, purple cabbage, carrots and fried shallots.
I first tried this salad dressing a few years ago when my friend Jenny made me the Asian eggplant salad from "Fast Food My Way" by Jacques Pepin. While I love roasted eggplant, I thought the dressing would be really good with raw napa cabbage. I started playing around with the salad dressing and with different salads using napa cabbage as a base, and I really love this combination.
Napa cabbage is a more delicate and delicately-flavored cabbage compared to green cabbage. The leaves are thin and wrinkled, with a center rib that gets thick, wide and crunchy at the base. It can be found in Asian grocery stores or in the Asian vegetable section of your local supermarket.
You can shred the napa cabbage and purple cabbage either by hand or in a food processor fitted with a slicer blade. Either way, remove the tough core at the base of both cabbages before shredding.
Avocado might seem like a strange ingredient in an Asian salad, but I threw some avocado into my salad one day when I was trying to use up an avocado before it went bad, and it was delicious! It goes well with the dressing and the creamy avocado is a nice contrast with the crisp vegetables.
You can fry or bake your own tofu, or you can buy fried tofu cutlets from an Asian grocery store. The tofu absorbs the flavors of the dressing nicely, and this is one of those examples of why it's a good thing that tofu is bland. Crisp, fried shallots are also available in Asian grocery stores. The fried shallots add a nice flavor as well as a delicious little crunch on top of your salad, and I highly recommend going out of your way to find them for this recipe.
- 4 cups of shredded napa cabbage (half of a medium head of cabbage)
- 2 cups of shredded purple cabbage (quarter of a medium head of cabbage)
- 1 cup of grated carrot (one large carrot)
- 1/2 avocado, chopped
- 1/2 pound of fried or baked tofu, thinly sliced
- handful of chopped peanuts
- 4 tablespoons fried shallots
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Tabasco sauce to taste
To build the salad, layer the salad ingredients in order, with the napa cabbage on the bottom and the cilantro on top.
Whisk the dressing ingredients together and drizzle the dressing on top of the salad.
Serves two people as an entree or four to six people as a first course. You can also double or triple the recipe easily to feed a crowd.
If you're bringing the salad to a potluck or packing it for work, try to keep the dressing and the fried shallots separate from the other ingredients. The moisture in the tofu and vegetables will make the fried shallots soggy and the dressing will cause the cabbage to wilt. Assemble and dress the salad right before it will be served.
*Salad dressing recipe is adapted from "Fast Food My Way" by Jacques Pepin, 2004.
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