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Monday 20 August 2012

Sluttishly Savoury: Thai Kohlslaw

Oh, kohlrabi, you strange wee alien turnip beastie, you. What are you? Where do you come from? Why do you look so… unfortunate?

Please don’t run screaming from the kohlrabi. What it lacks in looks, it makes up for in flavour and versatility. What’s more, Sir Hugh Fairly-Longname has spoken and apparently RIGHT NOW is the best time to enjoy its mild, crisp taste (like a slightly sweet broccoli-cabbage-turnip megamix). And I don’t know about you, but remembering to eat seasonally makes me feel seven shades of smug. 


Well, it turns out the little blighter can be boiled, mashed, fried, roasted, you name it… but I like it best as nature intended – totally raw. Now that The Artist Formerly Known As The Sun is on his comeback tour of the skies of Britain, my thoughts are turning towards fresh flavours and (whisper it) healthier accompaniments to grilled and barbecued meats and fish. This fuss-free Thai-inspired kohlslaw fits the bill, and showcases the taste and texture of kohlrabi – plus it gives me the opportunity to combine puns and cooking.

Thai Kohlslaw (serves 4-6 as a generous side)

You’ll need:
For the slaw
  • 1-2 medium-sized kohlrabi (they’ll get larger as the season progresses, so you’ll only need one later in the year)
  • A handful of white or red cabbage, finely or roughly chopped, depending on your personality/preferences
  • A handful of sweetheart cabbage, also chopped
  • A carrot, julienned or grated
  • 3 or 4 radishes, thinly sliced
For the dressing
  • 2 tbsp Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1½ tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp grated lemongrass
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 1 chilli, finely chopped
  • A small bunch of chopped coriander
For the finishing touches (optional)
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp diced mango
  • A squeeze of lime juice
  • A couple of sprigs of coriander
Make it!
  1. Remove the antennae tentacles stalks and leaves from the kohlrabi. You can keep these to use in stir-fries, soups, or stews – cook them as you would any leafy greens.
  2. If the kohlrabi has a fibrous skin, you’ll need to peel it (young ones don’t need peeling – even more reason to eat them now!). If you like your slaw crunchy, finely chop into matchsticks. If you prefer a softer texture, grating’s the way to go. Chuck all your chopped veggies into a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, add the fish sauce (hold your nose – it smells horrific, tastes divine), sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger, chilli, lemongrass and lime juice, and mix well.
  4. Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss until everything’s coated in deliciousness, then pop your kohlslaw in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the flavours develop.
  5. Just before serving, stir in the coriander. If you like a lot of bits on top of your food (I do), finish with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, some more coriander, and a squeeze of lime juice. I've also added cubed mango to mine, as I'm a sucker for a sweet-savoury taste sensation. Peanuts would be a really good addition here, too.

I've used my favourite crunchy veg, but you can throw in whatever takes your fancy. You can buy kohlrabi in bigger supermarkets or at farmers’ markets and you might find one in your veg box this time of year. If you can’t find any, substitute raw turnip (no, really) or a few more cabbagey things – but I’d suggest adding a teaspoon of sugar or honey if you do, to replicate the sweetness of the kohlrabi.

This’ll keep well in the fridge for 3 or 4 days. It won’t last that long, though. You’ll have scarfed it all.


  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I want to make this, plus you made me giggle. Not bad for a Monday afternoon.

  2. I love weird looking vegetables. They always taste the best.

    1. Except fennel. Fennel does NOT taste the best.

    2. Everyone loves fennel. I think you're all wrong.

  3. I went kohlrabi mad last year and grew about 30 of them after which I vowed I could never face another one, think I may have to go and buy one now though and make this!

  4. Agreed...the weirder it looks, the better it tastes. Even I can't see any visible beauty in a celeriac, but boy does it taste good.

    We found kohlrabi quite recently but love it now! It came in our first Abel and Cole box, and lasted ages....we made slaws lots with it.

    I've since seen it on the Whitechapel Road market too, so I'll definitely give this recipe a go when I next pick some up.

  5. Laura B - any suggestions for a veggie-friendly alternative to fish sauce?

    underaglasssky - I think of celeriac as the Ood of the vegetable world :)

    1. I've done some rooting around and discovered that a (paradoxical) vegetarian fish sauce exists! It's Vietnamese and called Nuoc Mam Chay. You'll find it in large Asian supermarkets, but failing that, try substituting it with light soy sauce. Let me know how it works out if you give it a go!


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