Japanese Ingredients by Kristen McSorley, Boiled Wheat Photography, Montana food and travel photographer
Recipes,  Savory

A Japanese Picnic Pt. I | Wasabi Coleslaw

Japanese Picnic from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley, Boiled Wheat Photography, Montana food and travel photographer
Japanese Picnic from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley, Boiled Wheat Photography, Montana food and travel photographer

Japanese-Inspired Wasabi Coleslaw


  • 1 medium sized head of bok choy or napa cabbage
  • 1 c. shredded or julienned daikon radish
  • 1/4 purple cabbage, shredded
  • 4-5 green onions or scallions, finely chopped
  • 3 T rice vinegar
  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 t. wasabi paste (or to taste)
  • 1 T white sugar
  • 1/4 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 1/2 t. salt

For the coleslaw mix: Thoroughly rinse bok choy or napa cabbage, then cut into thin slices or shred. To a large mixing bowl, add shredded cabbage, daikon radish, purple cabbage, and scallions. Toss to mix.

For the dressing: In a small bowl, add vinegar, mayonnaise, wasabi paste, sugar, ginger, garlic and salt. Mix well, then adjust to taste (I like a little more wasabi and more vinegar– but I’m a sucker for those in-your-face flavors). Pour about half of the dressing over the fresh greens, and toss to coat. Taste the coleslaw and add more dressing to your tastes. Any leftover dressing is great on salads or as a dip for veggies.

Top with green onions, sesame seeds, or shredded nori (personal favorite, but not pictured because it doesn’t travel well!) Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.


Recipe Notes: Napa cabbage is both a more Japanese choice and, I believe, a slightly better texture in this coleslaw. However, the most important thing is getting a cabbage that’s fresh and high quality, which happened to be Bok Choy when I went shopping for this shoot. Also, real wasabi is absolutely going to taste better, but it’s very expensive and almost impossible to come by unless you’re in a large city. So no worries about using the horseradish stuff. Lastly, shredded nori may seem like it would make this dish a little too funky or fishy, but I encourage you to try it! I really believe it rounds out the overall flavor, and you can add as much or as little as you like.

Japanese Picnic from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley, Boiled Wheat Photography, Montana food and travel photographer
Japanese Picnic from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley, Boiled Wheat Photography, Montana food and travel photographer

Picnic season is here, and it’s reminding me that I am, in fact, an “outdoorsy” person. When I was in college, my little apartment complex was only about a five minute drive to the nearby canyon, littered with official and unofficial trails that offered a bit of peace and solitude. Being someone who is chronically anxious and very, very easily overwhelmed– this was a little slice of salvation for me. Any homework that didn’t *absolutely* require my laptop was done at some hidden spot on one of the, usually unofficial, trails– regardless of weather. Many good ideas, and many more cries were had in those mountains. And while I miss virtually nothing about college, I have missed spending so much time outside.

One would think that moving to Alaska would have offered me even more opportunities to explore surrounding nature, but it did quite the opposite. Going outside required much more effort and much more protection in an area very much run, still, by wildlife and extreme weather. Solitude is what has always been so appealing to me about hiking, and being outdoors in general. Sometimes you just want to exist, bare-breasted to the elements, seen only by other naked, wild things. You know?

Kidding. Sort of.

But in Alaska, solitude equates to danger much more so than it did in my little college town. And any trails with other people are going to have a lot of other people. It doesn’t take too many friends saying “you’re going out ALONE?” before you get the hint that if a bear mauls you, or if you end up at the bottom of an avalanche– no one will have an ounce of sympathy. Because duh. You’re in mother nature’s ring, baby, you gotta be prepared for death.

So I didn’t take my chances. I stayed inside.

Japanese Picnic from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley, Boiled Wheat Photography, Montana food and travel photographer
Japanese Picnic from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley, Boiled Wheat Photography, Montana food and travel photographer
Japanese Picnic from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley, Boiled Wheat Photography, Montana food and travel photographer

In moving to Montana, I’m finding much of the freedom I had before. There are still bears here, and snow, and elk. But the ominous “outside” doesn’t try quite so hard to kill you at all times. I no longer feel the constant need to carry firearms. And I no longer feel the constant need to sacrifice my solitude. Some of my most cherished freedoms have returned in ways that I never expected with this move.

And with that freedom? Comes picnics.

Eating outside was of particular concern when you could always be fairly certain that there was a bear within a mile of yourself at all times. Pack in, eat quickly, pack out. Check everything. Twice. Try not to have smells. Don’t linger. It’s a bit of a mood-killer.

The whole point of picnicking is that feeling of living slowly. It’s a sort of indulgence that in many ways, inspires much more guilt than eating junk food or spending frivolously. In a society so fast-paced, indulgence of time is often the indulgent of all. And, well, a hedonist like myself can’t resist that sort of pleasure.

Japanese Picnic from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley, Boiled Wheat Photography, Montana food and travel photographer

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