Posted by: Rachel | June 12, 2011

old king cole (slaw)

Cabbage is affordable, widely available, good for you, and, oh did I say affordable? Raw cabbage is high in fiber, runs under 20 calories a cup, has a good amount of vitamin C, and is an excellent carrier for a variety of dressings. I’ve been enjoying this particular raw cabbage salad in a variety of permutations for the past few summers and my apologies for not sharing it sooner!

Several years ago my friends in California took me to a Burmese restaurant for lunch. If I could remember the name of the place or even roughly where we were that day I’d happily plug it (assuming it is even still there) but it was just too long ago. I ordered this, loved it, and, as there are no Burmese restaurants anywhere near where I live, I did my best to recreate it here at home.

Most any variation of coleslaw makes me happy. I like it with a mayonnaise-based dressing, with or without poppyseeds, with a hot bacon dressing, I don’t think I’ve ever met a coleslaw I didn’t like. The thing that’s especially nice about this one is that it is summery, there’s nothing that can get nasty or scary if it is transported to a pot-luck or picnic, and it incorporates a flavor set that I especially like.

I love ginger and garlic together. I use the combination in marinades, rubs, in stir fry for chicken, beef, shrimp, you get the idea. This dressing uses them both, and I love it. If you can’t find fresh ginger, you can use dried ground ginger, and if you can’t find fresh garlic you can certainly use garlic powder, but I think the crunchy slivers of fried garlic are awfully good and really add to the taste and texture of the overall dish.

partially fried garlic slices

can you smell it? mmm...

This is a very simple recipe. The hardest part is slicing the garlic thinly so that it cooks evenly, then making sure that it doesn’t burn. I cook it over a low flame until the “down side” starts to barely brown, turn it, and do not look away from it as it cooks fast!

The only suggestion I have is: make it and dress it ahead, a day ahead is fine, but add the nuts just before serving. The nuts stay crunchier this way. The salad I ate had roasted peanuts on top, but if there is any concern about allergies, feel free to leave the nuts out entirely, or substitute cashews or pumpkin seeds or soy nuts or… you know how this works. I think this would actually be really good (if perhaps no longer “Burmese”) with chopped honey-roasted peanuts… mmmmm!

Sesame oil is fairly readily available in the “Oriental foods” section of bigger groceries. It really does add to the flavor and sets this dressing apart. I keep mine in the fridge as it seems to be a bit fussier than other oils and it keeps just fine.

Burmese Coleslaw

big bowl of slaw


2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 T olive oil
1 chunk of fresh ginger to make about 1 T grated*
1 carrot
1/2 head green cabbage
3 or 4 key limes or 1 regluar lime
1 T sesame oil
1 t sugar
1/2 C peanuts (roasted, unsalted, chopped)
1 C chicken (roasted or grilled, cut off bone) or
1 C grilled shrimp

Chop, shred, or grate the cabbage fairly fine, put in a largish bowl. Grate carrot and add to cabbage. Mix.

Sautée the garlic in olive oil until just golden (right before it burns), remove from heat and set aside.

Juice the limes into a small bowl. Grate the ginger and add to the lime juice. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the sesame oil, garlic and olive oil and mix well again. Taste for sweetness and adjust if necessary. Pour it over the carrot and cabbage and toss to mix well. Just before serving, chop up a handful of peanuts, put on top and mix in. Add chicken or shrimp (optional). This salad will keep, covered, overnight in the fridge if there’s any left…

*Years ago I bought a bamboo ginger grater in an import store in San Francisco. It works great (ouch). If you don’t have one, though, you can grate fresh ginger using a box grater. Wrap the box grater with 1 layer of decent plastic wrap and grate the ginger on the finest, smallest side. When you are done, unwrap the grater and the grated ginger will lift off with the plastic wrap. I have done this and it is tricky but it works and you will not get plastic wrap in your food (at least I didn’t). If you have a different system, please share!

Serve with iced tea. See? Simple and mmmmm! Let us know what you think, and tell us what kind of summer cabbage dishes you enjoy!



  1. Sounds yummy! I’m always looking for new recipes for cabbage. Love the stuff but sometimes I get tired of the same ole recipes…

    • Good *and* good for you… can’t beat it! Thanks for visiting and please share any variations you come up with!

  2. I love this recipe and I agree cabbage is an underappreciated, versatile and cheap veggie. I like your suggestion to serve it with iced tea. That’s our house drink!

    • And its good with a “sweet” tea, either sweetened black tea or something like hibiscus-mint. Mmmm…

  3. mmmm, sounds good! Do you think crystallized ginger would also work in lieu of the fresh ginger and sugar?

    • I’m not sure. I think I’d go with some dry ginger in the dressing and mix some finely chopped crystallized ginger in as well so that the sugar on the ginger cuts the lime juice… try it and let us know! I do love crystallized ginger… have you ever had it chocolate covered? Oh mmmm….

      • well, close … I’ve added it to oatmeal choc. chip cookies! 🙂

      • Now you’re making me hungry! I’ve added it to banana bread with chocolate chips, does that count? Mmmm…!

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