Salade de Chou-rave Indochinoise

It is still too hot in San Jose to turn on the stove for any reason, and this light, crispy kohlrabi salad with just a touch of heat is a quick, simple dish well suited for this season. I brought it to a small fourth of July bbq last night, and it was a huge hit, with people coming back for fourths and fifths. The sweet, cool flavors of honey and rice vinegar highlight the refreshing crunch of kohlrabi complemented by the fragrant southeast asian flavors of Thai basil and hot pepper.

As I mentioned before, older, larger kohlrabis tend to get pithy and bland in taste. The smaller, and fresher the kohlrabi used for this salad, the crispier, and more pronounced the flavors will be. The kohlrabi in this dish is cut into match sticks, then salted to remove some moisture. This makes the kohlrabi even crispier, and reduces the strong cabbage smell that cut kohlrabi can give off if allowed to sit.

Thai basil can be found in almost any asian market, and differs from sweet basil in appearance on account of its thicker purple stems and flowers. The flavor profile of Thai basil also features anise notes much more prominently than sweet basil, but, in a pinch, the regular Italian stuff will still make a decent substitute.

The shredded carrot and daikon mix, a standby of Vietnamese cuisine, gives the dish some more substance as well as a nice flash of color. If you are lucky enough to have a Vietnamese market close by they will likely have a pre-prepared shredded carrot and daikon on sale for pennies a pound. This stuff is a universal Vietnamese side, topping, and base for salads and pickles – a sort of Vietnamese answer to sauerkraut. If you see it pre-made on sale, it is worth buying, not only because it is delicious, but also inexpensive, versatile, and keeps for sometime. Some markets sell it both fresh and pickled. The pickled stuff is called đồ chua, and could be used in this dish, but the flavors will be altered. So, if possible, stick the fresh variety. Absent Vietnamese markets, a box grater will make for easy shredding of about 2 carrots, and one half a daikon radish.

Salade de Chou-rave Indochinoise:
(southeast asian kohlrabi slaw)

  • 3 – 4 medium kohlrabi
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded carrot and daikon
  • 7 shallots
  • 2 scallions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 – 4 hot, sweet, red peppers (Fresno, Rocoto, or Aji will all work, each with slightly different results)
  • 1/2 bunch Thai basil
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3/4 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • dash of sea salt
  • black pepper to taste

Peel the kohlrabi, cut into quarter-inch thick rounds, then slice the rounds into matchstick size pieces. Place the matchsticks in a colander, and salt them. Leave the kohlrabi to sit salted, so as to draw out some of its moisture.

Slice the shallots thinly.

Mince the garlic and the hot peppers.

Cut the Thai basil into chiffonade. Separate the leaves from the stems, and stack them flat on top of one another. Then, roll the stack of leaves into a bundle, and cut as thinly as possible across the short side of the rolled bundle of leaves. This will result in thin ribbons of basil.

Slice the scallions thinly. Rinse, drain, and pat the kohlrabi dry. Toss all of the ingredient together until well mixed. Let the salad sit covered in the fridge for about 20 minutes for the flavors to meld. Enjoy!

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