Thai-Style Cabbage Salad and the Right Knife

by Dorothy Reinhold on June 25, 2012

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In Southern California, summertime means lots of dinners on the patio to capture an intoxicating climate — the last warmth of the day as it mixes with our cool evenings.

This delicious thermocline loosens our reflexes, eases our cares and ushers in a casual approach to an al fresco meal. We move more slowly, we’re more forgiving and unstructured, we have a looser interpretation of dinner, and we linger longer at the table, appreciating the sounds as evening descends.

Summer, then, has us craving salads, and lots of them. They feel weightless on the dinner plate, they allow seemingly all nine daily servings of vegetables at one sitting, and the dressing can carry the satisfying and sneaky flavor punch for the whole meal.

Thai-Style Cabbage SlawToday’s recipe is perfect for summer meals outside — a Thai-Style Cabbage Salad that is light, bright and packed with crunch and flavor. In truth, it’s an all-year-long affair that is as comfortable perched on a summer barbecue picnic table as it is on a groaning winter holiday buffet. Either place, it provides a fresh-tasting antidote to heavier, more calorie-laden dishes.

CUTCO 5-inch Petite SantoukuTo make this recipe, I teamed up with Kitchen PLAY and the folks at CUTCO Cutlery, who asked me to develop a recipe that showed off one of their many excellent varieties of knives.

A vegetable slaw is a perfect dish to show the merits of a fine knife. Without the proper slicing tool, preparation can be a chore and a struggle, ultimately leading to kitchen frustration. With a high quality CUTCO knife, slicing and dicing is a breeze and it makes prep a pleasure.

It’s not simply about having a sharp knife, although that’s important, but also about using the right knife for the right job. For example, a tiny paring knife won’t cut it for this job (I’ll wait while you give me a courtesy chuckle). For slicing the onion, cabbage and kale in this salad, and later chopping the mint and cilantro, you’ll need a grown-up knife. I chose CUTCO’s 5-inch Petite Santoku ($103), an Asian-inspired, versatile knife perfect for chopping, slicing and dicing meats and vegetables.

As well, a knife must feel right in your hand, and be properly weighted. It can’t pitch forward or lean back as you use it. You’re looking for a fluid action; the knife should be a sharp extension of your hands. CUTCO knives are all that and built to last, made from high-carbon, stainless steel that is mirror polished. They’re as beautiful as they are practical, and the company has numerous testimonials from families who have passed the CUTCO down to the next generation – that’s how well the knives hold up.

I’ve been using a santoku-style knife for a few years, and am sold on its versatility. I used to reach for my chef’s knife as the go-to, but now it’s my santoku. This 5-inch Petite Santoku is well sized for smaller hands, and tackles all my tasks well.

CUTCO knives also have a couple of other important things going for them.

  1. They’re made in America. The older I get and the more aware I am of economic influences, the more important this is to me. Supporting American business is crucial.
  2. They offer a free “Forever” satisfaction guarantee, and free sharpening for the life of the knife. This is a huge value! The last time I paid to have my (non-CUTCO) Santoku knife sharpened, it cost me $20!

All right then, knives up, and let’s get dinner on the table…ready, set, chop!

Grating carrotsCarrots get the box grater treatment.

Redbor kale choppedI used Redbor kale because I have it growing in the garden. You could use Dinosaur kale or any variety you prefer.

Chopping mintStack mint leaves on top of each other and slice crosswise,  to chiffonade into ribbons.

Slicing onionsSlicing one layer of onion at a time gives you very fine shreds, as described in the note below.

Slicing cabbageA well balanced, sharp knife sized appropriately to the job allows you ultimate control so you can get fine slices.

Chopping cilantroNo Thai dish is complete without cilantro!

Thai-Style Cabbage Salad in a bowlClockwise, starting with carrots, Redbor kale, green cabbage, cilantro, red onion and mint.

Recipe: Thai-Style Cabbage Salad

Summary: Chock full of crunchy greens, this slaw features both cabbage and kale, onion for bite, and mint and cilantro for Asian flavors. The light, lemony dressing has a secret ingredient – fish sauce — that is a game-changer, taking the salad from nice to WOW!


  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice (I used Meyer lemon juice because I had it)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce  (see note below)
  • 1 green cabbage, finely shredded
  • 5-6 leaves kale (I used Redbor magenta kale, but use your favorite variety)
  • 1 small red onion, sliced extremely thinly (see note below)
  • 3 peeled and grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Honey-roasted peanuts


  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the lemon juice, oil, sugar and fish sauce until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cabbage, kale, onion, carrot, mint and cilantro and toss well. The dressing will coat the ingredients very lightly; there will not be a pool of dressing in the bottom of the bowl. Throw in a handful or two of peanuts, toss again, and serve.
  2. Serves 8-10.

Quick notes

Technique note: An easy way to get super thin slices of onion for use when you are eating them uncooked, as in this salad, is to do it this way. Slice an onion in half lengthwise (stem to root), cut off stem end and root end, peel off and discard papery skin. Then peel off a single layer of onion, press it flat against the cutting board, and slice as paper-thin as possible. Chop the onion one layer at a time, for maximum control.

Fish sauce: The light, lemony dressing has a secret ingredient – Asian fish sauce, an odiferous, dark brown liquid that smells like…well…an aquarium gone bad. Why would you want to use this stinky sauce in your cooking? You use only a tiny bit, and trust me, if you leave it out, you WILL notice the absence. It won’t taste like a cannery in your salad; rather, the alchemy of the dressing takes this salad straight from “nice” to “WOW!”

What is santoku? According to Wikipedia, the Santoku bōchō (Japanese: 三徳包丁; “three virtues” or “three uses”) or Bunka bōchō (文化包丁) is a general-purpose kitchen knife originating in Japan. Its blade is typically between 5 and 8 inches (13 and 20 cm) long, and has a flat edge and a sheepsfoot blade that curves in an angle approaching 60 degrees at the point. The top of the santoku’s handle is in line with the top of the blade. The word refers to the three cutting tasks which the knife performs well: slicing, dicing, and mincing. The santoku’s blade and handle are designed to work in harmony by matching the blade’s width/weight to the weight of blade tang and handle, and the original Japanese santoku is considered a well-balanced knife.


I wrote this post and created this recipe as part of a partnership between Kitchen PLAY and CUTCO. They have compensated me for my time and cooking expenses. The content of this post is my own.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Number of servings (yield): 8
Culinary tradition: Thai-inspired
My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 

To celebrate summertime dining, CUTCO Cutlery is also sponsoring a delicious giveaway at Kitchen PLAY. Simply recreate one or more recipes from this month’s Progressive Party, post about the experience on your blog and provide a link to your post on Kitchen PLAY to enter.  All qualifying bloggers in each course will be entered to win a CUTCO Salad Mates gift set, which includes a Paring Knife and Trimmer (six prizes total, valued at $113 each). Prizes will be shipped directly to each winner. Please review the complete contest rules before entering.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Varun Sharma April 29, 2020 at 2:40 am

Super awesome recipe! A tastier, healthier, easier, and more flavorful alternative to typical snacks. Turned out great!


Traci July 31, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Hi, I have nuoc nam, not nam pla – or Thai – fish sauce. WIll that make much of a difference in flavor?


Dorothy July 31, 2012 at 2:08 pm

It is the same thing. You just have the Vietnamese version of it. Use it!


Carole July 20, 2012 at 12:38 pm

You are a star for linking up. Isn’t there now a great collection of salad ideas. And more are still coming in. Cheers


Carole July 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm

The subject of this week’s Food on Friday on Carole’s Chatter is Salad. It would be great if you linked this in. This is the link .


Connie Kaiser July 18, 2012 at 7:43 am

You have mentioned the fish sauce a few times now and I am intrigued – but couldn’t find at grocery store. Looks in Asian section – sauces – where can I find it?


Dorothy July 18, 2012 at 11:32 am

You can find fish sauce in the Asian section at grocery stores. I have seen it at Ralphs, Vons, Pavilions, Whole Foods. It is in a small bottle like a small soy sauce bottle. Sometimes it is called Nam Pla (Thailand) or nuoc nam (Vietnam) or shottsuru (Japan). But really, I have seen it simply called fish sauce, or fermented fish sauce. Stinky but good!


Connie Kaiser July 19, 2012 at 7:26 am

Thanks – I think I did see it under one of the other names. i will look again…..


Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet June 25, 2012 at 3:04 pm

What a gorgeous salad. I love it!! I bet my family would go gaga for it! Beautiful pics too!



Joan Nova June 25, 2012 at 10:56 am

I love Asian-inspired salads and I agree a good knife is indispensable.


Connie Kaiser June 25, 2012 at 7:49 am



Sarah Caron June 25, 2012 at 7:26 am

Oh. Wow. The flavors and textures in this sound and look amazing.


Aggie June 25, 2012 at 3:36 am

I love everything about this slaw. So fresh and full of crunch! Great recipe!


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