I attended my 3rd and final Memorial Day weekend barbecue yesterday and was at a bit of a loss when trying to come up with a side dish to bring.  After digging around in the fridge for a few minutes, the only thing I came up with was half a head of red cabbage.  My obvious next thought was coleslaw, right?  Well, I should explain that coleslaw and I have a complicated past, mostly caused by miscommunication.  You see, I’m not a fan of mayonnaise, and all of the coleslaws I encountered growing up had LOTS of mayo in them.  I was either oblivious to the vinaigrette-based coleslaws at the time or people in the south don’t make those much.

Anyway, my first year in Davis someone brought a Thai coleslaw with red cabbage, cilantro, and peanuts to a potluck.  I was (thankfully) brave enough to try it and discover that it was delicious!  I had no idea cabbage actually tasted GOOD.  Since then I have thought about trying to replicate that recipe, but have never gotten around to it.  I decided that this Memorial Day would be a great time to try.  I went searching for recipes to use, but couldn’t find one that sounded just right, so I ended up mixing and matching ingredients from several sources!

First, I used the Joy of Cooking’s method to sweat the cabbage (remove excess water) before assembling the salad.  After you slice the cabbage, you put it in a colander, toss it with 1 tablespoon of salt, and weight it for 3 hours.  I put a bowl on top of the cabbage and then weighted it with bags of dried beans, but you could also use a plate and/or anything heavy to press the cabbage.

After a few hours I rinsed the cabbage and then added chopped green onions, sliced red pepper, chopped peanuts and a rice vinegar-based vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette was very similar to one that comes from a Thai chicken salad recipe in my friends’ mom’s cookbook for novice cooks, Life After Ramen.

This slaw was both pretty and tasty in the end.  It got lots of compliments at the bbq and I would definitely make it again.

Thai Peanut Coleslaw

Serves 6-8 as a side.

½ head of red cabbage, thinly sliced into short strips
5 green onions, thinly sliced
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, cut into short strips
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup chopped basil
¾ cup coarsely chopped peanuts

¼ cup olive oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp red pepper flakes

1. Place shredded cabbage in a colander and toss with 1 tablespoon of salt.  Place a bowl or plate over cabbage and weigh it down with cans, dried beans, etc.  Allow to sit and drain for 3 hours.

2. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients, set aside.

3. Rinse the cabbage and pat dry.  Add onions and red pepper and toss with the vinaigrette.  Stir in cilantro, basil, and peanuts before serving.