Asian slaw worthy of a fine dim sum house

You would think I’d walk away from Yank Sing, one of San Francisco’s best dim sum houses, with dumplings on my mind. But what stuck with me after my last visit there was a red cabbage salad.

My son and I were in heaven eating our dim sum when I spotted a dome of the slaw on the table next to ours.

“That looks good,” I said to our neighbors, who told us that it was and that they ordered it often. The next time it came around on the trolley, I nabbed some, and it was good. I had to hold myself back to save room for the dim sum.

I was sure there was fish sauce in the dressing. It had that telltale salty-savory background flavor that makes you want to take bite after bite. But it was also on the sweet side. There was some sugar in the dressing, but more of the sweetness came from an abundance of candied walnuts.

I wanted walnuts in my red cabbage slaw, but I have never been a fan of candied walnuts (or pecans), especially in salads. Too sweet. So I toasted my nuts when I recreated the slaw, a mix of very thinly shredded red cabbage, cilantro, julienned radishes and walnuts. I was going for a sweet-nutty-salty-sour mix; the tablespoon of agave syrup in the dressing provides plenty of sweetness.

Asian Red Cabbage and Walnut Salad

Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon agave syrup

1 tablespoon fish sauce

Salt to taste (optional; fish sauce is salty)

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons walnut oil

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil

8 cups finely shredded red cabbage (1 medium cabbage, quartered, cored and finely sliced)

1/2 cup slivered cilantro leaves with top parts of stems (lay bunch down and cut across the bunch)

1 cup julienned radishes

1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger, to taste

1 cup lightly toasted walnut halves (You can substitute pecans for the walnuts.)


1. In a small bowl whisk together lime juice, rice vinegar, agave syrup, fish sauce, salt (if using) and oils.

2. In a large bowl, combine red cabbage, cilantro, radishes, ginger and 1/3 cup of the nuts. Toss together, add dressing and toss together again. Refrigerate until ready to serve, and toss again before serving.

3. Mound the slaw in a bowl or on a platter. It looks nice if you press it into a bowl then reverse it onto a platter. Top with remaining toasted nuts just before serving.