Smoky Summer Slaw

I posted my smoky tea pickles on Instagram last week, with the suggestion that you can eat the tea leaves along with the pickled onions. Naturally, the vinegar takes on that smoked flavour as well, making it the perfect base for your vinaigrette.

The smoky dressing adds depth and complexity to a very simple, refreshing salad. Throw together some Napa cabbage, cucumber and brightly coloured carrots, and you’ve got a healthy side that tastes more indulgent than it actually is. This so-called slaw is vegan, but everyone in my family asked me if it had bacon in it!

The pickles are covered with clinging tea leaves, which are perfectly edible – tasty, even!

Don’t underestimate the power of smoke to transform a dish. Where it is easy to achieve that charcoal flavour over a grill or use a smoking gun on solids, that is rather impossible on salad or liquid, so the lapsing-infused vinegar becomes liquid gold. You’ll see.

I have used Napa cabbage here, but Savoy would be nice as well. Fresh bean sprouts would be right at home here, if you have them. I used cucumber and carrots because that’s what I always have in the fridge, but thinly sliced bell peppers would be perfect, too. If you have some mint in your garden, that would not hurt one bit. Chives or green onions would work, too.

Smoky Summer Slaw

  • 1/2 head of Napa cabbage
  • whole English cucumber
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 cup smoky tea-pickled onions
  • 1/2 cup rice wine or smoky tea-pickle vinegar
  • 1/3 cup light vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

Thin slice the cabbage, dice the cucumber and grate the carrots or slice them into matchsticks. Throw them all into a large salad bowl. Dice pickled onion with whatever tea leaves are clinging to them and throw them on top.

Mix together smoky vinegar, oil and soy sauce. Stir together and toss with salad. If you want, take a large forkful of tea leaves and stir them into the rest of the slaw.

Coleslaw often is better for resting, but with this simple salad you can throw it together last minute. It’s fine to make ahead as well, for a couple of hours. Pair nicely with grilled meats and chicken.

Top it with green onions if you have them. I had furiyake so I used that.

This one simple ingredient is truly a more powerful taste enhancer than you might think, so take the time (15 minutes) to make yourself some smoky pickles and then enjoy using them to make this kick-ass summer slaw or try them in a quesadilla or chopped salad. You’ll find they add an umami element that you wouldn’t think possible in a salad without cheese or buttermilk or bacon bits. Surprise and delight your (vegan) friends!

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Tea sommelier, love to cook AND bake. Soups are my go-to comfort food and I rely on an excess of garlic in almost everything but dessert. I review Canadian cookbooks for those who want to know which to gift or buy for your own collection.

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