Coleslaw á la Japonaise

Coleslaw is a salad of shredded cabbage with a dressing. In Mexico and Central America, curtido is lightly fermented or pickled cabbage, often with the addition of carrots and onions. Koreans serve namuls or seasoned vegetable ‘salads,’ and are famous for cabbage kimchi. The Germans make sauerkraut.

The Dutch who founded New Netherland (New York State)…grew cabbage extensively along the Hudson River. They served it in their old-country ways, often as koolsla (shredded cabbage salad). This dish became popular throughout the colonies and survives as coleslaw…
…a combination of kool, “cabbage,” and sla, “salad” …


I was making chili—warm red and fragrant on a snowy afternoon. As a side dish, I wanted something tangy and fresh for contrast. There is a recipe in Hiroko Shimbo’s book, The Japanese Kitchen, for kyabetsu no sokuseki zuke: quick salt-pickled cabbage. Quick, in this case means five hours, and because of the snow it had taken two hours to shop so the recipe was out of the question. My solution comes from making other tsukemono: I salted the finely shredded cabbage and carrots in a plastic bag with a weight on top for two hours—long enough to remove excess water from the vegetables leaving them tender-crisp. The result: coleslaw colorful enough for a Japanese bento!

“Salad, a term derived from the Latin sal (salt), which yielded the form salata, ‘salted things’ such as the raw vegetables eaen in classical times with a dressing of oil, vinegar or salt. The word turns up in Old French as salade and then in late 14th century English as salad or sallet.”
—Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford Univeristy Press:Oxford] 2nd edition, 2006 (p. 682)


Colorful Coleslaw

  • ½ head of a small cabbage, shredded fine (about 1 ½ cup)
  • 1 medium size carrot, shredded fine (about ½ cup)
  • 1½ Tablespoons salt
  • plastic bag, 2 square plastic food containers, 1 heavy can
  • 6 – 7 red radishes, julienned thinly
  • good-sized handful of cilantro, chopped
  • juice of a lemon or a lime (or a combination)
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar and oil salad dressing
  • Variation: sesame oil and rice vinegar with black sesame seeds and mashed umeboshi

Toss the cabbage and carrot shreds with the salt and seal them in the plastic bag. Place the bag into one food container and stack the other container on top. Use the can to weigh down the salted vegetables. Leave this arrangement on your counter for two hours. Check to see if the salt is drawing water from the vegetables and add salt if needed. Rinse the cabbage carrot mixture with fresh water. Drain and squeeze dry in a clean kitchen towel.
Toss the cabbage/carrot mixture with the radishes and cilantro. Sprinkle the citrus juice and salad dressing over and toss again.
Because you have drawn out so much water from most of salad, this keeps well overnight. Well enough to serve a second time, anyway.

My chili, well, no recipe but here are a few notes about how it was made:
I like the mid-west USA version of chili well enough, with red kidney beans, ground hamburger, and tomato sauce (please: no celery, no carrots, and keep the onions to a minimum!)—and I love Cincinnati Chili with chocolate, cinnamon, cheddar, and spaghetti—but this time I used cubed flank steak. The flavor base involved garlic, some chopped onions, smoked Spanish paprika, cumin, ground cayenne, black pepper, oregano, bay leaves, ½ can tomato puree, and some little inspiration. Usually I’d have soaked some dried ancho peppers, and whirled them into a pureé, but they were at the old house. I started it on the stove-top, but once all was simmering gently, it cooked by itself in a low oven (325°F) for about 3 hours. Meat was fall-apart tender!

Albanian lakër; rrobaqeës
Basque – aza, berza
Belarusan – kapusta
Bengali – bAdhA kopi
Chinese (phonetic-Mandarin)- juan-xin-cai , bao-xin-ca
Czech – hlavka zeli
Danish – kaal
Dutch – kool (de)
Esparanto – brasik/o
Estonian – kapsas
Finnish – kaali
French – chou
( “mon chou” or “mon petit chou”, equivalent to “darling” but translated literally as “my little cabbage”)
German – Kohl
Greek – λάχανο (láchano)
Hawaiian – kapiki
Hebrew – כרוב
(the term “rosh kruv” (cabbagehead) implies stupidity)
Hindi – Patta Gobi
Indonesian- kol, kubis
Irish – leitís chabáiste
Italian – cavolo
(a mildly impolite expression with a similar connotation to the English “crap.”)
Japanese – Kyabetsu キャベツ
Latin – Brassica oleracea
Latvian – KA¯POSTI
Lithuanian- kopu¯stas
Maori – kapiti, kapeti
Norwegian- kål
Persian – kalam
Polish – kapusta
Portuguese – repolho
Romanian – VARZAö, CAöPAöT¸ ÂNAö DE VARZAö
Serbian -kupus
Slovak – hlávka kapusty
Spanish – col
Swahili – Kabeji
Tagalog – repolyo
Tibetan – kram
Turkish – LÂHANA
Ukranian – kapusta
Urdu – gobi
Vietnamese – tõ lãng
Yiddish – KROIT

“Ménager la chèvre et le chou,” Negotiate with a sheep and a cabbage. google translate: pussyfoot


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