Korean Cole Slaw
I’m still waiting for spring to arrive in Chicago, but at least hailstorms in April have been interesting! I was pretty excited when we filmed this video because it was during a fluke warmer week, and that made me anticipate the idea of frolicking outside again.
All I know is that the next time I have to bring a potluck dish to a barbecue or picnic, you can bet I’ll be toting a big bowl of this Korean Cole Slaw.
The crunchy, spicy, sweet and tangy coleslaw could be the star of the show, but it’s really meant to be the complimentary side kick to all the other foods on the table.
I love how you can eat it as a side dish to accompany BBQ meat and rice, but it can also be enjoyed and utilized in a gajillion other ways. I kept imagining it as a topping for an Asian fusion taco, or a slaw for a grilled chicken sandwich on a buttery toasted kaiser roll. Yes, you can see I REALLY thought about this.
The best part of this coleslaw is how the thick spicy sauce clings onto the cabbage and veggies like a needy boyfriend. Don’t you get sad when you have coleslaw with dressing that slips right off of it and leaves a puddle at the bottom of your bowl? No worries about that with this one.
I like how it sort of reminds me of fresh kimchi, but with a sweeter, tangier twist. There’s not much to it, but I still made a video for it! You can see how I make and enjoy this Korean Coleslaw in EPISODE 12 of Bits & Pieces SEASON 4 BELOW:
WATCH HOW I MAKE KOREAN COLESLAW HERE:
The secret ingredient is fish sauce and if you’ve never had salad dressing with fish sauce before, this will change your life. Fish sauce is one of those weird miracle ingredients that makes all the difference. I recently had roasted brussels sprouts at my friend’s restaurant, and when I asked him why they tasted like they were made from kisses from an angel, he told me it was because fish sauce was involved. Who knew?
There’s rice vinegar to add that tang, but I also add lime. Limes are not widely used in Korean cooking because they’re expensive and hard to find in Korea…but not here! So I liberally added a good squeeze to the dressing, and that makes it pop.
Another important element is the use of perilla/ sesame leaves. I feel like I’ve been using them in every other recipe this season, but I can’t help myself. They add the most refreshing mild mint quality to the coleslaw, and that’s what makes it so addicting.
I chose to eat our coleslaw with nothing more than some crispy pork belly. They sell it at the Korean grocery store, and all I did was throw it in a pan. Because the coleslaw is so flavorful on its own, there’s no need to season the pork belly.
No lie, this has become one of my favorite meals. I find myself craving this all the time. I think it’s the combination of flavors and textures. Especially when I warp them in some more perilla leaves, I can’t get enough!
But you can skip the rice and lettuce wraps and go for some interesting fusion ideas. I would recommend this on a sandwich, taco, or burger. But really, choose your own adventure because there are no rules. Just grab a fork or a pair of chopsticks and start eating!
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- ½ a small head of cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
- ½ cup of grated carrot
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 8 Perilla / Sesame leaves, thinly sliced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
- Sprinkle of salt
- 2 tablespoons coarsely ground Gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes)
- 2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lime juice (from about ½ a lime)
- 2 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- Add the cabbage to a large bowl, sprinkle with a little salt, and toss a couple times. This will help soften the cabbage a bit so it's not so stiff. Mix the rest of the coleslaw vegetable ingredients together with the cabbage, holding back some sliced perilla leaves and sliced scallions to garnish on top.
- In a smaller bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients. Let stand for a couple minutes. It will thicken up slightly.
- Add some of the sauce to the coleslaw and using kitchen gloves or tongs, mix well until all the ingredients are evenly covered with sauce. Use only what you need. Transfer the coleslaw to a serving bowl or platter and top with the reserved remaining sliced perilla leaves and scallions. Garnish with more sesame seeds and drizzle of sauce. Enjoy as a side with rice and crispy pork belly, or use as a topping for Korean tacos!