Chinese Cabbage Salad with Corn and Pickled Cucumber

When I was a teenager this simple salad was all the rage. I guess its popularity was first of all due to the new vegetable: Chinese/Napa cabbage. Even avowed lettuce haters liked its crunchiness, neutral sweetish taste and every home cook appreciated its long fridge life, its all-year availability, not to mention its low price. Some prepared this salad with vinaigrette, some with mayonnaise but my favourite sauce is a mixture of mayonnaise and yogurt with crushed fresh garlic. Though I prepare it all year round, I think of it as a typical winter salad: refreshing and light, but still quite filling.

After so many years I still love this salad and still wonder why the taste is so good because the ingredients are quite ordinary. The only explanation is a perfect combination of different flavours and textures: it’s crunchy (cabbage), sweet (corn), sour (pickled cucumber), with a slight pungency from the onion and the garlic and a creamy mayonnaise sauce finish. I always make sure to grind lots of black pepper for an awakening kick (actually I cannot imagine it without big amounts of pepper, no matter how weird it sounds…).

TIPS: If you want to transform this salad into a full meal, add some proteins such as cubes of hard cheese, hard-boiled eggs, ham, chicken breast or canned tuna.

I think salt-brined cucumbers are the best here, but if you cannot find them (they can be found in Polish, Russian or Ukrainian grocery shops, but I also find them in German organic shops), you can take the more international vinegared pickled cucumbers or even small cornichons. Do not use cucumbers pickled in a very sweet brine though. They must taste sour and sharp.

Preparation: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves four as a side dish or two as a main course, if protein added (see TIPS above)):

1 small Chinese/Napa cabbage (bu small I mean weighing 1/2 kilo or about 1 lb)

1x 250 g (about oz) can of corn (or the equivalent of frozen/fresh and cooked for 5 minutes)

3 medium salt-brined or vinegar-pickled cucumbers

1 medium red onion (you can also use spring onion, but red onion looks nicer, I think)

mayonnaise or mayonnaise+yogurt (I use approx. 125 ml/ 1/2 cup of dressing)

2 medium garlic cloves, crushed

salt, pepper

Prepare the sauce with crushed garlic, salt, pepper, mayonnaise and yogurt (if using).

Chop the cabbage, slice finely the onion, cut up the cucumbers, drain and rinse the corn.

Give the salad a good stir and refrigerate.

If you don’t add the sauce immediately, the cut up vegetables will keep for several days (the sauce in a separate container too). It’s best to add the sauce one or two hours before serving; thus the flavours will mix better but don’t add the sauce as early as one day before.

14 Replies to “Chinese Cabbage Salad with Corn and Pickled Cucumber”

  1. What a simple and simply delicious looking salad! Napa cabbage is my favorites, but lately, I’ve had a hard time finding it. I had to buy regular cabbage this week because that’s all they had. UGH! Love the use of the salt-brined cucumber pickles and then the crushed garlic. Now that’s a garlic lover for you that puts raw garlic in a salad. 🙂 Great little salad Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ! I tend to add garlic everywhere…. and I love raw garlic (actually when I was a 5-6 year old child I loved bread with butter, sliced raw garlic and salt!).

  2. I love napa cabbage and I love that the size is so much more manageable than an ordinary cabbage. I make a slaw that I copied from a local chef (he calls it his 19 Ingredient Slaw or Singapore Slaw!) but if I cannot find napa cabbage, I buy the ordinary kind and we eat it for what seems like a month! Of late, I have been purchasing the pre-cut, pre-washed bag slaw and I simply add my own ingredients to it (jicama, celery root, cucumber and mango) and I make a salty and slightly sweet dressing to go on it, it is absolutely delicious. Your gorgeous slaw reminded me of my favourite because of the combination of flavours, I usually pickle some onions to go onto the slaw which reminded me of your salt-brined pickles.

    1. The 19 ingredient slaw sounds amazing, Eva! The mango one too! I love Napa cabbage because it’s not as tough as white cabbage, but stays crunchy and keeps forever.

  3. You’ve inspired me to buy a head of napa cabbage! We go through 2 bags of cabbage a week in this house but it’s the tricolor dainty kind – we like it but it doesn’t have the same texture taste as some of the more robust cabbages. The rains have arrived (already missing the sun, lol) so I’m heavily in to soup these days but I know your salad would be simply delicious too. I agree it has quite an array of flavors and I could easily see it being rather addictive (looks so pretty too!).

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly! I cannot believe I have inspired you to buy something! I feel very proud 🙂 I’ve been also eating typical cold weather food, but I keep now a Napa cabbage in the fridge just in case I’m fed up with warm meals… and it happens regularly.

  4. I have first seen and ate nappa cabbage when I came to Germany and I liked it so much as salad, I have never stopped buying it. I am not so crazy about it when it is cooked, I prefer to cook other cabbage sorts, but I love it fresh. This is a salad I would definitely love to eat, corn and sour cucumbers and mayonnaise sound great!

    1. Thanks a lot, Adina. I did make some warm Napa cabbage experiments, but I didn’t like them either. Some vegetables are simply good only raw (or pickled! I think about kimchi here…).

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