Kohlrabis are funny looking things – almost alien like, given the pale green color and outstretched antennae pointed every which way. But despite the German name and odd appearance, these cultivars of the cabbage are rather easy going. The flavor and texture resemble a bit of broccoli stem meets turnip – except milder, sweeter, and fleshier.
I remember my mother making kohlrabi slaw in the past, and me liking it very much. The crunchy raw texture baited me completely. But since I never witnessed the prep (I never do in my mother’s kitchen – things just happen and delicious dishes magically appear), I had no idea what a kohlrabi looked like until spotting a crate at the local market (“colinabo”). The Spanish market regularly stocks these funny green things, as does the German market just a ways down the street from the former. I’m not sure how it is used in German nor Spanish cooking, but had my mind set on making something in the raw. A small package of chili rojos stole my attention like bright red firecrackers teasing me from the very top shelf; the minuscule size of the chiles was a pretty good indication that they would be scorching hot. A few limes got tossed into the shopping bag. Inspiration. It would be a Thai-style salad.
Thai-style dressings usually require the addition of ever potent fish sauce. Though I’ve seen the sauce sold, ironically enough, at the German market, the treasured bottle that sits in my refrigerator came as a sweet and thoughtful gift from our housekeeper. With a bright green bottle cap and big graphic squid on the label, I’m pretty sure she got the bottle from a true Asian shop. I’ve seen a few such stores scattered off the beaten path within Palma de Mallorca. It’s the real deal – stinky and salty in its pure bottled form, but easily softened after mixing with other ingredients.
Note to self: must go find a good Asian shop.
Thai-Style Kohlrabi Slaw (serves 2 as a simple side)
- 2 medium-to-large size kohlrabis
- 2 carrots
- shallot diced (or 1-2 tablespoons of dried shallot)
- 1-2 diced red chilis, seeds removed (1 chili for spicy, 2 chiles for deathly spicy)
- sesame seeds (optional)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- juice from 1 lime
- 2 teaspoons honey
- if necessary, added salt to taste
Remove the antennas from the kohlrabi and using a vegetable peeler, take off the thick waxy outer skin. The kohlrabi pretty much peels just like an apple. Next, julienne both the kohlrabis and carrots into skinny matchsticks; place in salad/large bowl. Dice and add shallots. I cheated and used a couple of tablespoons of dried shallots out of a jar that I wanted to finish up. Finally, finely dice and add the hot peppers. If desired, remove the seeds to lower the heat. Two of the small chiles put my salad way over the top in terms of spiciness. I was sweating.
In a separate smaller bowl, combine all ingredients for the dressing and whisk together. Add the dressing to the salad and mix thoroughly. Depending on the quality and saltiness of the fish sauce, only add salt (and in very small amounts) to taste, if necessary. Top with a sprinking of sesame seeds if desired.
I enjoyed the salad next to a big bowl of steaming hot curried soup (the soup had some fresh spinach and all the leftovers from the fridge thrown in – fantastic). Yes, my nose was a bit runny by the end of dinner, but it was worth every bite and slurp!