Recipe: Hakusai Salad

An easy-to-make Autumn dish served warm or cold

By Fiona Uyema
November 26, 2017
Food & Drink

Cook it, stock it, eat it cold or warm!

I always associate hakusai (Asian cabbage) with the colder months of the year as it works perfectly in soups and stews. It’s a basic vegetable you’ll find in every Japanese supermarket, usually for just around ¥100. The hakusai salad is one of my favorite ways to eat this juicy and fiber-rich vegetable, not only because it is easy to make, but also because the recipe was passed to me by my mother-in-law Hiroko, who is a fantastic cook and baker. Although Hiroko was born in Brazil, both her parents came from Okinawa so her cooking is heavily influenced by the Japanese diet. Due to the strong flavors in this dish, Hiroko serves it on the side alongside other communal dishes, including rice, vegetables, fish or meat.

The salad can be eaten warm or cold, but I prefer to eat it straight from the fridge or at a room temperature. It keeps well in the fridge for up to one week. Here’s how to make it at home!


*Serves 4

  • 250g hakusai
  • A few thin slices of ginger to garnish
  • Dressing dash of sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 25g sugar
  • 25ml vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 small chili, roughly sliced with seeds removed
  • Thumb-size piece of ginger, finely chopped


  1. Wash each hakusai leaf carefully to remove any dirt.
  2. Cut the leaves about 2 inches thick widthways.
  3. Place the thicker leaf ends in boiling water for 2 minutes (these take a little longer to cook), then add the rest of the leaves for another minute. Drain the leaves in a colander and set aside to cool.
  4. Put all the ingredients for the dressing in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then immediately reduce to a very low heat. Stir to make sure the sugar is fully absorbed and continue to simmer on a very low heat.
  5. In the meantime, carefully arrange the leaves so they are neatly aligned and upstanding in a dish with a flat base and sides. The leaves should fit tightly into the dish, as shown in the picture overleaf.
  6. Pour the hot dressing evenly all over the leaves and scatter the chili pieces on top. Garnish with the ginger slices.
  7. Cover the dish with cling film and let it cool.
  8. Put in the fridge for a few hours before serving. 

Using this recipe? Share your photos with us via Facebook or Instagram with a hashtag #savvytokyorecipe . Enjoy! Xx

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