Super fresh Asian wombok salad packed with crunch and spicy tang. One of our favourite potluck or BBQ side dish, we adore the combination of wombok with red cabbage, apple, fresh herbs and homemade fried crispy noodles. A crowd pleaser for sure.
Why You’ll Love Our Wombok Slaw Recipe
I love wombok. I love it raw, stir fry, braised, fried, pickled … hahaha pretty much in every form. It is such a versatile ingredient and can be used in various wombok recipes.
By itself, wombok can be a bit bland but it carries other flavours so well. That’s why I love it so much in salads, especially in Asian salads. Wombok can absorb all the delicious flavours around it. Great supporting act to let the main flavours shine.
For this Asian wombok slaw recipe, I am using two types of cabbage, wombok and red cabbage to give contrasting flavours, textures and colours. Elevated with green apple, carrot, fresh herbs, and your own homemade crispy fried noodles, this combination is delicious, flavourful, and packed with crunchy textures.
I make this wombok salad often, especially for barbecues and potluck gatherings. It can be prepared in advance, and it is so easy to transport. Just add the homemade crispy noodles and salad dressing when ready to serve.
How To Make A Healthy Coleslaw Recipe
Most fat content in a classic coleslaw recipe comes from the salad dressing. To create a healthier version of coleslaw, avoid heavy cream-based salad dressings. Try our creme fraiche and chives dressing or spiced yoghurt dressing for something lighter and different for coleslaw.
For this wombok slaw recipe, I have chosen to go with an Asian-style dressing with no cream or oil in the mix. It is a recipe my beautiful cousin gave me a few years ago when she cooked some Thai style barbeque pork for us.
This wombok salad dressing is great with grilled meats, seafood, and other Asian-inspired salads, including pak choy salad. Versatile, refreshing and adds a good amount of zing to the dish.
What is Wombok?
So I have mentioned wombok multiple times now. Do you know what is wombok?
Wombok is what we call napa cabbage in Australia. It is also called Chinese cabbage in other places because it originated in China. Wombok is very popular in East Asian cooking.
As a member of the cabbage family, wombok is believed to be a natural hybridisation of turnip and bak choy. It is a large vegetable with an oblong-shaped head.
Wombok grows well in cooler months, but you will find it pretty much all year round now. A good wombok has tightly arranged white leaves with pale yellow crinkly edges and feels heavy to hold.
Wombok cabbage is quite different to regular cabbage.
Wombok leaves have higher water content, therefore, are more tender to eat. They will wilt more quickly than regular cabbage when cooked. Regular cabbage leaves are firmer and tend to hold up longer in salads.
Depending on the wombok recipe, I wouldn’t automatically substitute wombok with regular cabbage as the flavour profile and texture differ.
Can You Eat Wombok Raw?
Yes, you can! You can eat wombok raw.
I grew up eating cooked wombok in every form but not raw. I only realised you can eat wombok raw a few years ago when a friend introduced me to a wombok salad with sesame soy dressing.
Wombok is sweeter and milder in taste when eaten raw. And it is fantastic in salads because it can absorb the salad dressing flavours so well.
If you love raw wombok, check out our roast duck and wombok salad as well.
Flavour/Texture: This wombok salad is loaded with various textural elements that make it delicious and flavourful.
I love how the wombok is mixed with red cabbage, green apple and carrots for a fresh crunchy taste and then topped with scallions, cilantro, crushed peanuts, sesame seeds and the homemade crispy noodles that deliver the final crunch punch.
Ease: Homemade fried crispy noodles will take some time and care in the wombok recipe; otherwise, the remaining ingredients just need to be chopped up.
I mainly chop most of my vegetables, but you can use a food processor or mandoline to assist with the preparation.
Time: This salad will take approximately 1 hour with the crispy noodles. If you use store-bought noodles, the wombok salad will take 25 minutes and involve no cooking.
These are the ingredients you need in wombok salad recipe:
Wombok/Napa Cabbage: choose one that is heavy to hold and has crisp white leaves with no blemishes. We need approximately 3 cups of chopped wombok. You can save the rest of the wombok to use during the week.
Red Cabbage: Cabbage can keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, so it is a versatile ingredient to have as a backup vegetable. I love the purple hues of red cabbage in this salad.
Carrot: For another layer of texture, I add shredded carrot for colour and taste.
Green apple: I often use green apples in my salads because I love the tart flavours. You can, of course, use other varieties as well.
Scallions: I love adding herbs and aromates to Asian salads. Scallions will add texture and a little heat.
Cilantro: One of my favourite herbs to use in Asian salads. I will use leaves in the salad and stems in the salad dressing.
Crushed peanuts: Store-bought crushed peanuts work fine for this wombok salad recipe.
Sesame seeds: Along with the crushed peanuts, I added extra nutty flavours with toasted sesame seeds.
Fresh egg noodles: Commonly found in Asian grocery stores and possibly in some larger supermarkets in the cold fridge section. They often come in a packet with 4 or 9 tightly rolled portions.
In this recipe, I have used just one portion. This yields more crispy noodles than you need for 4 serves of salad but is so tasty you can just nibble on them or store in an airtight container.
Corn flour: A small amount of corn flour is used for dusting the egg noodles and helping them crisp up.
Vegetable oil: Any neutral oils will be fine to fry the egg noodles.
Fish sauce: The better quality fish sauce will have less added salt as it draws flavour from dried anchovy. Fish sauce will give an umami flavour to the salad dressing.
Lime: I love the combination of lime and fish sauce. The sharp contrasting flavours are a match made in heaven.
Brown sugar: I prefer to use brown or palm sugar in Asian-style salad dressings as it complements the sweet caramel flavour of fish sauce.
Ginger: Grated ginger will add aromatic flavour and heat to the dressing.
Chilli: You can adjust the chilli in the dressing as much as you like. Bird’s eye chillies will give more heat but you can also use large red chillies for a milder heat in the salad dressing.
Variations and Substitutions
Store bought fried crispy noodles: If you are short of time, you can use store-bought fried crispy noodles as I did in the crunchy noodle salad. Chang’s Noodles is a popular brand in Australia that works well in this wombok salad.
Alternatively, you can use packaged instant ramen noodles. No need to cook the instant ramen noodles. Just crush it up in the packaging and discard the seasoning.
Red vs white cabbage: Red cabbage is slightly more peppery than regular white cabbage, but they are very similar in taste, so you can substitute red cabbage with white cabbage in this recipe.
Vegetarian option: Switch the fish sauce with a vegan fish sauce or soy sauce in the salad dressing if you need a vegetarian salad.
Gluten free option: The egg noodles I use in this recipe contain wheat. Therefore for a gluten free option, you can substitute with a brand that is gluten-free or try vermicelli, as they are made from rice flour and not wheat. Always check the packaging to make sure.
Additional toppings: Add shredded leftover roast chicken or roast duck to this wombok salad to make it a complete meal. However, I find with fried crispy noodles; there is enough bulk for this vegetarian wombok salad.
Nut free option: You can omit the peanuts if you have any nut allergies. The nuts add crunch and nutty flavour but are not essential as you have the crispy fried noodles for texture.
Extra chilli and lime: If you want, this wombok salad recipe can take an extra punch, so have it with more lime and chillies. Place extra wedges of lime and chopped fresh chillies on the side for those who need that pizzazz in their lives.
Step by step instructions for how to make wombok salad recipe:
How To Make Crispy Noodles For Salad
For this wombok salad recipe, I decided to make my own crispy fried noodles because I had fresh egg noodles in my fridge at the time.
Plus, the satisfaction of having your own crispy noodles is quite rewarding. However, you can easily purchase pre-made fried noodles at the supermarket, which also works well.
Bring a medium sized pot of water to boil.
Pull the egg noodles apart but “loosen” the rolled portion.
Drop egg noodles slowly into boiling water.
You only need to cook the noodles to al-dente as we need to fry the noodles later. Use chopsticks or tongs to move noodles around, so it doesn’t stick together.
Cook for 60 seconds and drain in a colander.
Give the noodles a good rinse under cold running water to remove any excess starch and to help prevent them from sticking together.
Spread cooked egg noodles out on a baking tray or baking paper and let them dry. This could take 30 minutes or so. While waiting for noodles to dry, you can start chopping up the salad.
To speed up the process, you could leave the tray in a warm oven. Don’t bake the noodles in the oven! Just turn on the oven to heat up and then turn it off before putting the tray in. Remove noodles when completely dry.
Dust the noodles with cornstarch to help with the drying process. It also helps to crisp up the noodles when frying.
In a large frying pan or deep pot, bring oil to a simmering point.
Once the oil is ready, slowly drop noodles into the oil and fry for about 2-3 minutes or until golden brown colour. I separated my noodles into 3 batches because I didn’t want to overcrowd the pot.
Once ready, remove from oil and transfer to paper towels to rest.
How to Make The Salad
Start with the wombok. Give it a good rinse under running water and ensure there is no dirt near the base of the wombok. Shake off excess water.
Thinly slice the wombok leaves, starting at the bottom with the white leaves.
Trim the stem of red cabbage to remove it. Then place cabbage cut side down and thinly slice the cabbage leaves.
Shred carrot with julienne peeler or cut into thin matchsticks.
Slice apple into thin matchstick strips and place into a bowl of salted cold water. When ready to assemble, remove from water and pat dry with paper towels.
Wash scallions, remove roots and chop into 0.5 cm rounds.
Wash cilantro leaves well and roughly chop. Save the cilantro stems for the dressing.
How To Make Cilantro and Lime Dressing
Place brown sugar and hot water into a bowl and stir until sugar dissolves.
Add fish sauce, lime juice and grated ginger. Mix well and taste. You can add more lime juice or sugar, depending on how tangy you like it.
Add chopped stems and chilli to salad dressing.
Mix everything well together.
How To Assemble The Salad
In a large mixing bowl, toss chopped wombok, red cabbage, carrot, apple and spring onion together.
Then add ½ of the crispy fried noodles, cilantro, peanuts and sesame seeds and mix well with vegetables.
Add dressing and toss together.
Transfer mixed wombok salad to your serving bowl.
Scatter remaining crispy fried noodles, cilantro, peanuts and sesame seeds on top.
How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)
Don’t add noodles and dressing too early: You want a crunchy salad when serving, so avoid dressing the ingredients too early. And definitely leave out the crispy noodles until it’s time to eat!
Adjust the flavours according to your taste: I love more heat and tangy flavours in my Asian coleslaws. So don’t be afraid to adjust the salad dressing according to your preference.
Great Mains for This Salad
What to serve with wombok salad recipe? Try these delicious main dish recipes:
Sticking to an Asian theme, this Thai chicken curry recipe is right up your alley. You’d be surprised how good watermelon can taste with a good curry!
For those after some fish, these fresh salmon burgers should make it to the top of your list. Meanwhile, for our protein lovers, you can’t go past this smoked chicken breast recipe. Let the refreshing watermelon salad be the perfect accompaniment.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, this wombok salad recipe is not gluten free, as egg noodles are used for the crispy noodle component. Egg noodles contain wheat. You will need to purchase a gluten free option.
For remaining fresh egg noodles, you can easily whip up into other meals during the week. Try a chicken broth with egg noodles and serve with our grilled bok choy, salt and pepper tofu or Korean steamed eggplant side dish.
Alternatively, dry egg noodles with Kecap Manis dressing accompanied with delicious sweet sticky barbeque pork.
Yes, you can prepare all the ingredients ahead of time, but best to dress the salad when ready to serve. Wombok absorbs liquid quickly, and of course, you don’t want soggy crispy fried noodles.
This wombok salad is best to be consumed on the day. As mentioned above, wombok will absorb the salad dressing and may not keep that well overnight.
I adore this wombok salad recipe, and it is one of the most popular Asian coleslaws that I make. I love how refreshing it is but with many textural elements, especially with the homemade crispy noodles.
It takes longer to make crispy fried noodles at home, but I love the added crunch and aroma. However, don’t be put off by this step; like I said before, store-bought crispy noodles work fine too.
If you love Asian-inspired salads, this one is a winner.
More Asian Salad Recipes
Wombok Salad Recipe with Red Cabbage and Apple
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- In a large saucepan, bring water to boil and add egg noodles. Stir noodles so that they don’t stick together. Cook for 60 secs until noodles al-dente. Drain in colander and rinse under cold water to remove excess starch and to prevent from sticking together.
- Spread out on a sheet pan to let noodles cool down.
- Dust dried noodles with corn flour.
- In a large fry pan or deep saucepan, bring oil to a simmering point. You can test it by dropping a short strand of noodles into the oil and see if it quickly bubbles around it and fries.
- Once heat is ready, slowly drop noodles into oil to fry for about 2-3 minutes or until golden brown colour. Remove and place on paper towels to remove excess oil.
- Thinly slice wombok leaves starting at the bottom with the white leaves.
- Thinly slice red cabbage leaves.
- Peel and shred carrot into matchsticks.
- Slice apple into thin matchstick strips and place into a bowl of salted cold water. When ready to assemble, remove from water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Wash scallions, remove roots and chop into 0.5cm rounds.
- Wash cilantro leaves well and roughly chop.
- Place sugar and hot water into a small mixing bowl and mix until sugar dissolves. Add fish sauce, lime juice and grated ginger. Mix well and taste. At this point you can add more lime juice or sugar depending how tangy you like it.
- Wash cilantro sprigs well and finely chop. Add into dressing.
- Finely chop chilli and add to dressing.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss wombok, red cabbage, carrot, apple and scallions together.
- Then add ¾ of the crispy fried noodles, cilantro, peanuts and sesame seeds and mix well with vegetables.
- If you are ready to serve, add half the dressing and toss well. If you are not ready to serve, leave this step out and only dress when ready to serve.
- Transfer salad to your serving bowl. Scatter remaining crispy fried noodles, cilantro, peanuts and sesame seeds on top to serve.
- You can omit making your own crispy fried noodles and purchase pre-made ready to eat crispy fried noodles at the local supermarket. They work well too. This would cut your cooking time down.
- You can choose your own gluten free / egg free noodles depending on dietary requirements.
- Omit peanuts from salad if you have a nut allergy. It works well without as well.
- The dressing can be adjusted according to taste. Add more lime if you prefer more tangy. If you prefer less heat, deseed chilli and add only half the chilli to the dressing first. However, if you love spice then I would use 2-3 chillies for this dressing. Alternatively you can omit the chilli from the dressing and have a small bowl of chopped chilli on the side for your guests to add their own spice.
- Only dress salad when ready to serve. Wombok absorbs liquid quickly and of course you don’t want soggy crispy fried noodles.
- The salad works well with a variety of proteins mixed in to make it a complete meal. Try chicken, steak, prawns or firm tofu.
- Definitely a great accompaniment to Asian styled main meals like grilled lemongrass chicken, sticky pork ribs or whole barramundi.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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