Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Pineapple and mint coleslaw

As a child growing up in Asia, I knew salads came in 2 varieties: the one that looks well arranged in a bowl like the garden salad served with Thousand Island dressing and the other that looks like a bit of a mess but tastes really good, like the coleslaw and the potato salad. Almost every form of salad I knew back then was dressed in salad cream or Thousand Island dressing. I can't say I was particularly fond of the ubiquitous duo but I was definately partial to mayonaise - especially in a fresh coleslaw, not the limp, watery sort that is beginning to froth on the surface.

Let's face it, the mere mention of cabbage will have a few of us shifting uncomfortably in our seat. Belonging to the Brassicaceae family, this vegetable is notorious for causing flatulence and many would forgo dishes made from it in order to avoid any embarassing slips later on. But for those of us who don't, we reap the benefits of a vegetable high in folate, vitamin B and C.

After yesterday's scorching maximum temperature of 39C, I was in no condition to prepare a hot meal. I was craving something bright and fresh on the palate, something to stimulate the appetite. After much umm-ing and ahh-ing, almost succumbing to a liquid meal, I made this coleslaw for dinner to accompany a couple of grilled steaks. The flavours are Asian-inspired combining the unctuous flavour of fish sauce, the piquancy of lime and chilli and spiciness of garlic and fresh coriander in a light dressing, The slaw contains the usual suspects: shredded carrots and cabbage, with the addition of finely sliced blanched green beans, picked fresh coriander and mint leaves, and pineapple cut into matchstick pieces.

I personally love pineapple in savoury dishes. There is just something about combining the sweet sharpness of this tropical fruit with a spicy savoury sauce. It's experiencing the complete flavour spectrum (sans bitterness of course)all at once - I mean, could you get any closer to having a party in your mouth?! The flavours of this slaw is quite reminiscent of a Nonya favourite, assam laksa, which is a dish of noodles served in a fish broth flavoured with belachan (shrimp paste), tamarind, chillies and shallots.

Simply put, I think this slaw is the perfect alternative to the traditional coleslaw. It is tasty, zesty, low in fat (even fat-free if you choose to omit the oil in the dressing) and it makes a welcome addition to any BBQ, summertime party or picnic.

pineapple and mint coleslaw
1 1/2 cup finely shredded red cabbage
1 medium carrot, finely shredded
1 handful green stringless beans, blanched n finely sliced
1/2 medium ripe pineapple, cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup mint leaves, picked
1/2 cup coriander leaves, picked
1 lime, zest n juice
1-2 tsp sugar
1 large red chilli, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely sliced coriander stems
2 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
(serves 4)
combine ingredients for the dressing in a little jar, shake to mix and set aside
toss the ingredients for the slaw in a large bowl
dress the slaw about 5 minutes before serving. This allows the flavours to come together while maintaining the perfect coleslaw crunch.

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