Cole slaw is often positioned as a side dish, and soggy cole slaw from a tupperware can be pretty grim. But food blogger Justina Blakeney makes an amazing Asian-inspired cole slaw that deserves center stage. Here’s how to make it…

The Best Cole Slaw You’ll Ever Have
By Justina Blakeney

I grew up in a half black and half Jewish family, where Matzo ball soup was served with a side of collard greens. Growing up in California’s Bay Area, our family meals were also influenced by the cuisine of our neighbors—Japanese nori, Korean kimchi and Thai coconut milk were all staples in my mom’s kitchen. Even though we didn’t call it “food fusion” back then, that’s how we rolled.

One of my favorite dishes was my mom’s cross-cultural cole slaw. I don’t remember exactly what was in it—neither does my mom, a queen of concoctions—but I do remember that it was one of my favorite treats at summer barbecues. As a vegetarian for most of my life, I would pass by the ribs and make a beeline to the side dishes, where I ate cole slaw all. day. long.

Inspired by vague recollections of my mom’s recipe, I asked my best friend, my favorite chef and food stylist Catilin Levin (also fellow Bay Arean who writes the food column on my blog), to help me recreate it. I love this take on coleslaw, which incorporates bits and pieces from different cultures. It’s tangy and a little bit spicy, crunchy and super refreshing. And best of all, this mayo-free recipe is rich in protein, vitamins and live cultures.

Recipe: Cole Slaw
Serves 4
Recipe inspired by my mom, created by Caitlin Levin, and photos and cooking by me!

You’ll need:
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
Salt
1 cup + 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. miso paste
3 tsp. siracha
1/2 lb. silken or soft tofu
2 large carrots
1/2 red onion
5 cups Napa cabbage
4 small Persian cucumbers
1 tbsp. black sesame seeds
1 green jalapeno
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves

Boil water. With a veggie peeler make long ribbons of the carrots. Cut onion in half and slice paper thin half moon slices. In a bowl, mix carrot ribbons, onions, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup boiling water and a pinch of salt. Set aside and let sit.

In a blender, add 1/2 lb. of silken tofu, 3 teaspoons siracha, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons miso paste, and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Blend until smooth and set aside.

Cut Napa cabbage in half, length-wise. Slice as thinly as possible, add to a bowl with 1 jalapeno sliced paper thin in circles. Cut 4 Persian cucumbers in half lengthwise and then slice thinly into half moons, add to bowl of cabbage. Add all of your herbs to the bowl.

By this time, your carrots should be ready so drain all the liquid and squeeze the carrots and onions of any remaining liquid. Add these to the bowl.

Thanks, Justina! (And congratulations on the birth of your beautiful daughter.)

P.S. More best recipes, including avocado salad and grilled cheese.

(Photos by Justina Blakeney. Thanks to Shoko for helping with this series)