This was the purple cabbage dish we were served during the family dinner in Jinan. It really caught our attention, and it has become a pretty regular item at home. It is very simple, and can be put together in just a few minutes.
The dressing itself has basically five items, but everything comes through real well. The key item is using a good, pure sesame paste, which provides a wonderful savory - nutty flavor. The oil in the sesame paste also acts like an emulsifier. Chinese black vinegar and white sugar are the other two key components. The surprise is the addition of wasabi, which gives the dressing real zip. Everything is balanced out with some sea salt, and that's it.
I start with 3 tablespoons of well mixed sesame paste (remember to mix the sesame paste well, since the oil has usually separated in the bottle). I add an equal amount of white sugar, then 1/3 cup of Chinese Black Vinegar, and combine well. I taste and make adjustments to our taste(you may need to add sugar or vinegar), and suggest that you do the same. The "dressing" needs to be pourable. I then add some wasabi paste to taste, and finish up with sea salt. It's not the prettiest looking concoction.
I combine the cabbage with 3/4 of the dressing, mix well, and put in the fridge for 15-20 minutes, to let the flavors meld. After the short chill, I add about a handful of chopped cilantro leaves and 2-3 bunches of finely sliced scallions (green parts only). I mix, then adjust with more dressing if necessary and more salt. I add a sprinkle of sesame seed to top things off. This will keep for a day or two, (or maybe three) if refrigerated.
A couple of notes; I quarter the half of the cabbage I use and cut off the tough core. If you can't get good quality Chinese Black Vinegar, you can use Japanese Rice Vinegar, but cut the sugar in half before combining, then add more if necessary. We were told that finely julienned and blanched carrots are a good addition. I'm sure you can think of other good additions to this. We also had a version of this in Beijing, so stay tuned for that post.