Bruised Cabbage-and-Herb Salad with Spicy Fish Sauce Dressing

Yes, you can (and should) make salad in a mortar. When hardy vegetables, like cabbage, are lightly crushed in a tall Thai-style clay mortar with a long wooden pestle, they are tenderized just enough to yield a pleasing soft crunch. Bruised Thai basil, cilantro, and mint permeate this dish, with a dressing of fish sauce and lime, pounded chiles, garlic, and ginger. Serve it alongside grilled or roasted fish or chicken and steamed jasmine rice.

Bruised Cabbage and Herb Salad with Spicy Fish Sauce Dressing Recipe
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Dickey / Prop Styling by Heather Chadduck Hillegas
Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
30 mins


  • 3 thin slices (about the size of a quarter) peeled fresh ginger

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 1 fresh Thai chile or 1/2 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and sliced

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 6 cups packed shredded green cabbage (from 1 medium head)

  • 1 cup loosely packed soft fresh herbs (such as Thai basil, cilantro, and mint)

  • 2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts

  • Fried shallots, for serving


  1. Using a kruk, pound ginger, garlic, chile, and sugar to a fine paste, 1 to 2 minutes. Add cabbage and herbs; pound until cabbage is slightly softened and crushed and flavor of herbs is released, about 30 seconds. Add fish sauce and lime juice, and toss with pestle and a spoon until evenly combined. Let mixture stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Serve salad topped with peanuts and fried shallots.

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