(Note: this post was originally published on September 1, 2019 as "Super Fresh Thai Cabbage Salad". The date and new name above reflect migration to the new platform.)
Imagine Pad Thai going on a tropical, raw-foods beach vacation. That's the best way to describe this salad! It's a super-fresh and subtly tropical spin on everyone's favorite Thai dish that unites hearty Napa cabbage, sweet carrots, juicy mango, and crisp cucumbers. Fresh herbs and crunchy, salty peanuts make it extra special.
Not only does this salad taste like vacation, but it creates a bit of a vacation for you because it's so easy to put together! This salad is completely no-cook and can be prepared ahead of time, making it a great dish for entertaining or for a busy summer evening when you don't want to turn on the stove.
While I occasionally enjoy traditional Pad Thai, this version is much more my speed. It's refreshing, colorful, and loaded with nourishing fruits and veggies, which is everything I crave in a summer meal.
Cabbage: one of the world's most under-appreciated vegetables. It has such a bad reputation.
But no! Cabbage is actually an incredibly versatile veggie. It has big, robust leaves, which can stand up to bold dressing that would wilt or overpower other greens. If left raw and cut into thin strips, these leaves can pack a huge flavor punch and really excel with citrus-forward or vinegar-forward dressings or marinades. Even better, cabbage has a long shelf life, making it perfect for having on-hand or for prepping in advance.
This salad, with its bold dressing, tames the cabbage flavor and makes use of all of cabbage's best qualities. It's remarkably bright and herbaceous, with ample lime, cilantro, and mint. It takes the cabbage stereotype (boiled in some sort of stinky stew?) and turns it on its head, creating a dish that is flavor-packed, fresh, crisp, and so versatile.
The keys to a successful cabbage dish are two-fold: picking the right kind of cabbage for your dish and treating it properly.
There are numerous kinds of cabbage and they vary widely in taste and texture. The round heads of green and purple cabbage have thicker leaves that often need to be tamed a bit with cooking or a longer duration of marinading. This salad uses Napa cabbage, which has an elongate head and more tender and fluffy leaves. It excels in raw preparations like this, and doesn't require time to sit and tenderize. If you have someone in your life who is skeptical of cabbage, start with Napa.
This salad will excel in any summery meal! It's a great side dish for a get-together or BBQ, especially because it's make-ahead and transport friendly. Thanks to its freshness and zippy, bright flavors, it's a lovely accompaniment to grilled fare.
But you can also easily make this into a main course! Just add a bed of quinoa and some stir-fried tofu on top. Or, keep it no-cook by just thawing out some frozen edamame!
This salad can easily be prepared in advance. You can cut up the cabbage and carrots the day ahead of time, and even marinate them in the dressing overnight. I actually opt for that approach even when I don't need to, since the cabbage and carrots soak up so much wonderful flavor and become more tender. You can add in the cucumber and mango a few hours before serving, but I don't recommend having them sit in the salad overnight since they'll get soggy. When you're ready to serve, just toss in the fresh herbs and add the peanuts at the last minute so they keep their crunch.
Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
And there you have it... a very Lee-approved Pad Thai spin. I absolutely love the crunch factor, bright colors, and fresh flavors in this salad. I know this isn't a popular opinion, but to be completely honest, I'm not really a noodle dish type of person. This is a much better (albeit highly non-traditional) Pad Thai for me.
How will you enjoy this salad? Will you bring it to a potluck? Maybe have it on the deck alongside some grilled tofu? Perhaps pack it on a picnic? Call it dinner when you can't bear the thought of turning on the stove on a hot summer night? However you choose to enjoy this salad, let's make sure to give cabbage the love it deserves!
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
Fruit Salsa Guide (see especially the mango salsa examples!)
A delightfully fresh take on Thai flavors, this no-cook salad is perfect for warm summer evenings. It's like Pad Thai in a veggie-forward, refreshing format!