Asian Coleslaw

Full of vibrant colors and flavors, Asian slaw is a feast for the senses.

Alongside burgers, hotdogs and seasoned fried chicken, coleslaw has become a mainstay of American style BBQs around the world. The scrumptious salad is easy to prepare, doesn’t require cooking and is a fantastically tasty way to incorporate healthy fresh raw vegetables into the diets of voracious carnivores. A host of fun and flavorsome additions can be made to a traditional coleslaw to give it an extra zing and this Asian inspired recipe is a delightful example.

Who Invented Coleslaw?

The Netherlands was the country that first invented coleslaw as we know it today; slathered in mayonnaise with vinegared cabbage as its main component. Cabbage salads with a vinaigrette and egg have been around since Ancient Roman times. Mayonnaise only became the essential condiment that it is today in the late 18th century.

Many international versions of coleslaw do not use mayonnaise. For instance, in Japan, a mixture of ponzu sauce, rice vinegar and ginger accompanies julienne vegetables. In India, Kosumalli is a variant that incorporates beetroot, cucumber and cabbage salads and is known to children as veggie noodles. Greeks have their version of the salad, which uses yogurt instead of mayonnaise. Coleslaw has more variations than it has ingredients.

Coleslaw is thought to have made its way to America via the early Dutch settlers in New York. The city was so popular with immigrants from the Netherlands; it used to be known as New Amsterdam. The word coleslaw is derived from the dutch Koolsla, which is an abbreviation of koolsalade. Kool is the Dutch for cabbage while sla is a shortened version of the word salad.

Cabbage Ahoy

In England, cabbages were known as cole until around the 15th century. The term has achieved something of a resurgence with the recent growth in popularity of kale. This member of the cabbage family is prized for its high nutritional value and how easy it is to grow — and of course, there are versions of coleslaw that use the vegetable. Cauliflower is another word with the old term of cabbage at the root of its etymology, meaning flowering cabbage.

Recipe And Preparation

The Dressing

2 tbsp water
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp wasabi paste
400ml mayonnaise

The Salad

1/4 shredded red cabbage
1/4 shredded white cabbage
1/2 shredded red onion
2 large carrots, julienned
100g bean sprouts
2 scallions
2 tbsp cilantro


  1. Use a food processor or grater to make sure the vegetables are shredded finely and evenly. Once they are prepared, use a paper towel to remove any residual moisture.
  2. Finely chop the cilantro and scallions.
  3. Add the cabbage, onion, carrot, scallions, cilantro and beansprouts into the bowl you wish to serve the coleslaw in and thoroughly mix to ensure an even spread of each vegetable.
  4. Next, in a separate bowl, add the water, soy sauce, ginger, wasabi and mayonnaise and mix with a hand whisk.
  5. Combine the dressing into the bowl with the vegetables and season generously with salt and cracked black pepper.
  6. Garnish with extra cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.

The ginger and soy give a light umami flavor to the fresh but creamy classic version of the dish. This extra element of sharpness means Asian slaw works particularly well with unctuous sticky main courses such as BBQ ribs, beef brisket and juicy burgers. It can be whipped up in under five minutes and always tastes delicious.

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