Asian Coleslaw. Photography by Alan Benson

Australia in 5 unusual dishes: Asian Coleslaw

Australia: The Cookbook tells the story of the country’s culinary and cultural development - in hundreds of little-known and delicious recipes

Get Australia: The Cookbook and you’ll be able to do much more than throw a shrimp on the barbie. Sure, this comprehensive new title (an addition to our award-winning national cuisine series), features familiar antipodean dishes such as lamingtons, pavlova and barbecued prawns. However, it also includes an incredible - and incredibly delicious - selection of recipes that, in their own way, tell the story behind the culinary and cultural development of this island nation. There are Aboriginal Australian recipes, foods brought by the arrival of colonialism, and plenty of more recent additions.

In the book’s introduction, the Australian food writer and chef Ross Dobson describes how East Asian dishes made their way into Aussie kitchens. “The fall of Saigon in 1975 signalled the end of the Vietnam War,” he writes. “Many Vietnamese fled to Australia by boat.

“On 26 April 1976,  the first of these Vietnamese immigrants arrived at Darwin, Australia’s northernmost capital city. More than fifty boats came to Australia, but the vast majority of Vietnamese continued to arrive by plane and settled here as refugees seeking asylum. More than 80,000 Vietnamese settled  in Australia in the decade or so that followed.”


Author Ross Dobson. Photograph by Melinda Sanders
Author Ross Dobson. Photograph by Melinda Sanders

Yet, while plenty of new arrivals hailed from Vietnam, “people also came to Australia from Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines,” Dobson explains, introducing distinctive fried rice, spring roll and crispy pancake dishes to Australian palettes. This Asian slaw is made with fresh ingredients grown within Australia, yet it owes its origins to that late 20th century wave of Laotian immigration.

“In the 1970s hundreds  of thousands fled Laos as refugees. Many came to Australia and many settled in Tasmania, the southernmost island state,” Dobson writes “The [Laotian] Hmong people started growing and selling Asian herbs at farmers’ markets in the 1980s.”

Their reworking of coleslaw - essentially a European invention - dates from this time, and isn’t as heavy as the original.  “Compared to earlier versions, this  coleslaw is less about comfort food and more about freshness and crispness with a kick of chilli,” he writes, “an ingredient you would never have seen in the mayonnaise-smothered versions.”


Australia: The Cookbook
Australia: The Cookbook

You can serve this with baked fish, a noodle salad, grilled lamb, or just enjoy it on its own. To find out how you make this, and hundreds of other delicious dishes, order a copy of Australia: The Cookbook here.