Super Fresh Asian Inspired Salad Packed with Crunch and Spicy Tang. Our Wombok, Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw Is A Crowd Pleaser Especially When Dialled Up with A Sharp Coriander and Lime Dressing.
What is Coleslaw?
A quick Google and this is what I get:
a salad dish of shredded raw cabbage, carrots, and other vegetables mixed with mayonnaise.
And just like meat pie and tomato sauce, a classic pairing, coleslaw is synonymous with fried chicken. All those childhood memories come flooding back. Friday nights. Long road trips. So it is not strange that I always thought it originated from America. So wrong. Coleslaw is listed officially as Dutch cuisine. Say what?
Today there are many versions of the classic coleslaw. The only consistent ingredient is shredded cabbage. You can try adding capiscum, apple, pear, beetroot, fennel, cheese, herbs, bacon, chicken – basically anything that is shredded and gives good crunch or texture!
As for dressing, some cuisine will prefer a vinaigrette instead of salad cream or mayonnaise. In Southeast Asian inspired coleslaws, we prefer a tangy fish sauce based dressing just like our coriander and lime dressing. So many options to try!
How To Make A Healthy Coleslaw Recipe?
My kids love coleslaw. Crunchy cabbage salad that is great on hamburgers or with a slow cooked pulled pork roll. It’s a super easy salad to throw together for weekday meals.
Classic coleslaw is great but can be heavy and high in fat with all the mayonnaise that is added. My traditional dressing has less mayo, with extra lemon juice, a swirl of honey and a little curry powder to add oomph and zing.
Alternatively you could also completely substitute mayonnaise with plain Greek yoghurt for a low-fat healthy coleslaw recipe version. A tasty creamy coleslaw does not need to be drenched in mayo to be delicious.
Why We Love Wombok, Red Cabbage And Apple Slaw
I love cabbage. I love it raw, cooked, stuffed, fried, pickled … hahaha pretty much every form. By itself cabbage can be a bit bland but it carries other flavours so well. Great supporting act to let the main flavours shine.
In this Asian coleslaw recipe, I have combined two varieties, wombok and red cabbage, which I love for different reasons.
Wombok aka chinese cabbage, is very popular in Asian cooking. Typically we would include it in stir-fries, soup based meals and mixed with pork in juicy dumplings. However, we don’t eat wombok raw often. I actually only discovered you can eat it raw a few years ago! I find it has a higher water content than other cabbages so it adds a more sweet and mild flavour to salads and readily absorbs the dressing well. If you love wombok, check out our Roast Duck, Caramelised Grapefruit and Wombok Salad as well.
Red cabbage leaves are more firmer than wombok so it adds great bite and texture to this cabbage coleslaw. Plus colour! The deep purple-red hues brightens up any coleslaw. Red cabbage is slightly more peppery than green cabbage but they are very similar in taste so you can often substitute them.
In addition to wombok and red cabbage, I’ve added tart green apple and then scattered crunchy noodles throughout this coleslaw salad recipe. And finally balanced it all with a zesty coriander and lime dressing. You can even add shredded roast chicken to the salad to make it a complete meal. I actually used leftover chicken when I first made it, great for weekday dinners.
Not your typical cabbage slaw with mayo but super fresh and flavoursome that you will be wanting more.
How to Make Wombok, Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw
How To Make Crispy Fried Noodles
For this Asian coleslaw 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 works well too.
Fresh egg noodles are 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 so tasty you can just nibble on them or store in an airtight container.
For remaining fresh egg noodles, you can easily whip up into other meals during the week. Try a chicken broth with egg noodles topped with bok choy, enoki mushrooms and shredded chicken or dry egg noodles with sesame soy dressing accompanied with delicious sweet sticky barbeque pork.
Bring a medium sized pot of water to boil. Before adding noodles, I normally “loosen” the rolled portion up by separating the strands of noodles and then dropping it 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 colander. Give the noodles a good rinse under cold running water to remove any excess starch and to help prevent them sticking together.
When drained, spread egg noodles out on a baking tray or baking paper and let it dry. This could take 30 minutes or so. Whilst you are 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 corn starch to help with drying process. Also helps to crisp up the noodles when frying.
In a large frying pan or deep pot, 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. 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
This wombok salad includes a lot of shredding of ingredients. It is up to you how you would like to do this. I mainly chop most of my vegetables but you can use a food processor or mandoline if you wish to assist with the preparation.
Start with the wombok. Give it a good rinse under running water and ensure there are no dirt near the base of wombok. Shake off excess water.
Place the wombok cut side down, trim and remove the base of wombok. Thinly slice the wombok leaves starting at the bottom with the white leaves. Set aside for mixing.
For red cabbage, using a sharp knife, make a diagonal cut and trim the stem of cabbage to remove it. Then place cabbage cut side down and thinly slice the cabbage leaves. Set aside for mixing.
Next I shredded the carrot with my julienne peeler. Whichever tool you would like to use, cut carrot into thin matchsticks or use a mandoline to shred.
Apple turns brown very quickly after the fruit has been cut so I normally have a bowl of cold water with a good pinch of salt ready when I am cutting. By placing the cut fruit into the bowl straight away, it stops the oxidisation.
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 spring onions, remove roots and chop into 0.5cm rounds.
Wash coriander leaves well and roughly chop.
How to Make Coriander and Lime Dressing
This is one of my all time favourite dressings. A little recipe my beautiful cousin Ann gave me a few years ago when she cooked some Thai style barbeque pork for us. The coriander and lime dressing was a much needed partner with the slightly charred and deliciously juicy pork slices. Even writing about this makes my mouth water. Since then I’ve used the coriander and lime dressing with other grilled meats and seafood plus with other Asian inspired salads. Versatile, refreshing and adds a good amount of zing to the dish.
I need to remind everyone don’t be afraid to adjust the dressing according to your taste. Actually don’t be afraid to adjust all my salads according to taste! This is the whole beauty of salads. What I give is a good foundation to start and build something delicious but you can definitely add your own twist. If you like a little more zest, add more lime. If you like more heat, dial up the chilli. Very easy.
Place sugar and hot water into a 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 coriander sprigs well and finely chop. Add into dressing.
Finely chop chilli and add to dressing. If you prefer less heat, I would deseed the chilli and probably add only half the chilli, taste and then add more if you need to. However, if you are like me and love spicy then I would use 2-3 chillies for this dressing. The extra heat adds another dimension to the salad. Mix everything well together.
This cabbage salad dressing will keep a few days in an airtight container in the fridge.
If you have guests who have varying levels of chilli tolerance, then I would probably start with just 1 chilli in this cabbage salad dressing (or none if you need to be cautious!) and have a bowl of chopped chilli on the side of the salad. This way your guests can choose their level of spiciness!
How To Assemble The Salad
For assembly, I would use a large mixing bowl to combine the ingredients first and then transfer to the serving bowl after. I find it easier to toss together evenly and also ensure the peanuts and sesame seeds properly coat the vegetables.
If you have any nut allergies, you can omit the peanuts. If definitely adds crunch and nutty flavour but not essential as you have the crispy fried noodles for texture.
In a large mixing bowl, toss wombok, red cabbage, carrot, apple and spring onion together. Then add ¾ of the crispy fried noodles, coriander, 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. Wombok absorbs liquid quickly and of course you don’t want soggy crispy fried noodles. Only dress salad when ready to serve.
Transfer salad to your serving bowl. Scatter remaining crispy fried noodles, coriander, peanuts and sesame seeds on top.
For me personally, this salad can take extra punch so I love it with more lime and chillies. Have extra wedges of lime and chopped fresh chillies on the side for those who need that pizzazz in their lives.
And like I mentioned before, I originally added leftover chicken to my salad which made it a perfect meal in itself. I feel it will work with steak, prawns or slices of firm tofu for a vegetarian salad tossed together. Definitely a great accompaniment to main meals like grilled lemongrass chicken, sticky pork ribs or whole barramundi. If you love Asian inspired salads, this one is definitely a winner.
More Budget Friendly Salad Recipes:
Wombok, Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw
- 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.
- Give wombok a good wash and shake dry.
- Place the wombok cut side down, trim and remove the base of wombok. Thinly slice the wombok leaves starting at the bottom with the white leaves. Set aside for mixing.
- Make a diagonal cut and trim the stem of red cabbage to remove it. Then place cabbage cut side down and thinly slice the cabbage leaves. Set aside for mixing.
- 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 spring onions, remove roots and chop into 0.5cm rounds.
- Wash coriander 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 coriander 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 spring onion together.
- Then add ¾ of the crispy fried noodles, coriander, 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, coriander, 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.
You’re loving this Wombok, Red Cabbage And Apple Slaw recipe and now you need ideas for a main course that will pair well with it? Check out these delicious main course recipes for some inspiration.