This week’s recipe will feel like a ‘food hug’, a warm slaw made with shredded cabbage and grated coconut; cooked down in an oil tempering of whole spices and fresh aromatics, all brought together with a hint of nutmeg and drizzle of tangy lime juice.
Warm cabbage and coconut slaw loosely draws its inspiration from a beloved and stunningly simple ‘thoran-style’ of preparing vegetables with grated coconut and spices; a cooking technique I learnt during my years living in south India.
I’ve tried this style of cooking with a variety of vegetables like beans and spinach in addition to cabbage, always with amazing results.
While traditionally served with steamed rice in southern India, I prefer this spiced warm cabbage and coconut slaw accompanied by Indian flatbread like rice-n-lentil crepe ‘Dosa’, or wheat-based Roti-Chapati, or just good ole bread rolls.
Enjoy my version of a ‘food hug’…
- 1 lb. shredded cabbage (about ½ a medium head of cabbage)
- ½ cup fresh shredded coconut OR desiccated coconut (see notes)
- 1½ tablespoon canola oil
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 3-4 cloves garlic cloves, chopped (2 teaspoons chopped garlic)
- 6-7 curry leaves (if unavailable, leave them out, there's plenty of flavor going on)
- 2 whole Thai green chilies or 1 Serrano pepper (optional, for a subtle spice kick)
- ½ teaspoon ground red chili or Cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¾-1 teaspoon salt, to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- Heat canola oil in a sauté pan and add mustard seeds, chopped garlic, curry leaves and whole chili to it; always watch out for spattering when adding ingredients to hot oil. Turn off the flame if needed, while adding these ingredients.
- Stir for about half a minute and add the shredded cabbage and grated coconut. Sprinkle ground red chili or Cayenne pepper and turmeric over the cabbage. Stir and cook covered for 7-10 minutes on a low flame. Cabbage has its own moisture content, so no additional water is required.
- Next add salt and ground nutmeg, stir for another minute. It’s important to add salt after the cabbage has cooked, else salt releases water from raw vegetables, if added earlier in the cooking process.
- Turn off the flame, sprinkle lime juice and chopped cilantro, and leave covered for the flavors to blend. Pull out & discard the whole chilies at this stage, if desired.
- Serve spiced warm cabbage and coconut slaw as a vegetable entrée or side to your favorite meat, accompanied by Indian flatbread like rice-n-lentil crepe ‘Dosa’, wheat-based Roti-Chapati, or good ole bread rolls.
- When I say ‘fresh’ coconut, it’s perfectly fine to use the frozen packs of ‘fresh’ shredded coconut, easily found at gourmet food markets (like Whole Foods, Central Market and Sprouts, to name a few where I live.) Ethnic Asian food stores also sell these packs in their frozen section. Be sure to check the list of ingredients for pure coconut with no additives or preservatives…Sure beats having to break open a coconut and grate it yourself!
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