Crisp Coconut Cabbage Salad à la Exki
The past two months have been slow on Bottom-Up Food because I’ve been working from Paris about 50% of the time. This is great for eating, but bad for cooking.
Is eating in Paris as a vegetarian hard? Only when I’m not picking the restaurants. One of my favorite spots for a quick bite is Exki, which my French clients tell me in horrified tones “is a chain.” They’re right, but even if chains are evil I’d still love to see this one spread its tentacles out all over the US. Exki has an amazing selection of fresh, healthy, natural, delicious vegetarian dishes.
On my most recent trip I was so impressed by one dish — mahina — that I snapped a picture of the ingredients and resolved to make it as soon as I got back home. (I meant to take a picture of the food, too, but there wasn’t much left by the time I slowed down and took the camera out. France is teaching me to eat more slowly, but when I’m eating by myself sometimes I resort to my old speed-eating ways.)
Mahina is one of Exki’s little salads, and you can find it on their menu here. It is a crunchy salad that combines green cabbage (which I don’t usually care for), coconut, and apple, along with a few seasonings. At first glance, it doesn’t look like much, but it is delicious – crisp, complex, tart, and just a little sweet. The version I had at Exki was a little monochromatic, but using a red apple with its skin on instead of a green or peeled one fixes that, as does adding some bigger pieces of cilantro. I can’t find any reference to “mahina” anywhere, so I think it may be a name Exki made up.
Here’s what you’ll need to recreate this coconut cabbage salad at home:
- 4 cups green cabbage cut into very small pieces (less than 1 small head)
- 1 cup dried coconut flakes (big flakes, not shreddings)
- 1 crisp apple, cored and diced into small pieces
- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp neutral oil, like canola
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp salt
You’ll see that the ingredients on the package include white cabbage instead of green, but I believe they may be the same thing. Ditto for coriander instead of cilantro. This package, like many in France, is great for people who are practicing their French because it include a “decoder key” (read: English translation) below the French ingredients. Always nice to get confirmation!
And here are the few steps you’ll take to turn these ingredients into coconut cabbage salad:
- Combine the first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Whisk the last four ingredients together.
- Add the dressing, mix well, and enjoy.
This dish was a hit with my folks, who like but don’t love vegetables. Definitely worth trying it dish out with people who might not normally eat what is effectively a raw cabbage salad. I might even serve it to my sister, who I predict will call it “dirty hippie food” and then ask for seconds.