Coconut milk offers the right balance of richness and fresh flavor for this napa cabbage-based coleslaw; mayonnaise and oily vinaigrettes were too heavy. For heat, we tried Asian hot sauces but preferred fresh chili “cooked” in lime juice, which mellowed the bite and helped disperse the heat more evenly. Fish sauce adds seasoning and pungency, but we found potency varies widely by brand (we like Red Boat, which is milder than other brands), so start slow and add to taste. Many vegetables worked well, but the combination of sweet sugar snap peas and crispy radishes tasted best.
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Start to finish: 25 minutes
3 Tablespoons lime juice (1 to 2 limes)
4 teaspoons white sugar
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 medium serrano chili, seeded and minced
5 Tablespoons coconut milk
1 pound napa cabbage (1 small head), thinly sliced crosswise (about 8 cups)
6 radishes, trimmed, halved and thinly sliced
4 ounces sugar snap peas, strings removed, thinly sliced on bias
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews, coarsely chopped
In a liquid measuring cup, mix together the lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and chili. Let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in the coconut milk until combined, then adjust seasoning with additional fish sauce if desired. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, radishes, peas, cilantro and mint. Add the dressing and toss until evenly coated. Stir in the cashews and serve.
Don’t use “light” coconut milk or sweetened “cream of coconut” for this recipe. The former is too thin, and the latter is too sweet (think pina coladas). For a richer version of this slaw, feel free to use thick coconut cream (similar to coconut milk, but with less water) in place of coconut milk, reducing the volume to 4 Tablespoons. And don’t forget to vigorously shake the can before opening to ensure that the fat and liquid are fully emulsified.
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