When cooking Chinese on a weeknight, there's not usually much time to prepare a vegetable if you're stir-frying the protein or your wok is otherwise occupied. This is when knowing how to season up some simple sliced cabbage, carrots and onions is a handy thing.
Nuoc Cham is one way. I do this more for accompanying a steamed fish dish as I like how the lime plays to the cilantro and fish.
For speed, dress the slaw with nuoc cham to taste just before serving. For better flavor and texture, dress it early and let it stand refrigerated a couple of hours, stirring now and then. Just before serving, pour off the dressing and accumulated liquid from the vegetables. Dress again, using a bit less nuoc cham to account for what was absorbed.
If you're going to use nuoc cham, don't do a salted drain period with the slaw vegetables. Because fish sauce is so salty, it's best not use salt to wilt and drain the vegetables before hand.
Chinese Salad DressingThere are a number of variations on this out there, and even some good commercially bottled dressings. This is a simple one to mix together and is easy to scale up or down as needed. This one is close to one by Nina Simonds, but modified by myself under the influence of Mai Leung's cookbooks. This works well measured in teaspoons or tablespoons for a triple batch. Just depends how much you need.
4 light soy sauce (not lite or low sodium)
3 rice vinegar
2 toasted sesame oil
1 dark soy sauce
Combine and mix until the sugar is dissolved. This one doesn't emulsify well, just stir before pouring. It's good on many vegetables or salads. I'm particularly fond of it on sliced cucumber with a little chopped green onion. It's also a welcome dip for a hot pot.
Because I use Ve Wong XO soy sauce which is low in sodium naturally, I can salt the slaw vegetables to wilt and drain off their liquid. Otherwise, it's as with the nuoc cham where it would be too salty.
Spicy Red DressingI first encountered this in Yong Yap Cotterell's Chinese Cooking for Pleasure as the flavored base for Sichuan Chicken Cakes. Shortly after seeing this there, I came across Lexington Slaw which is a pretty similar concept. It's surprisingly simple, basically spiced up ketchup. Yong Yap just used ketchup and dried chile flakes.
Ratios suggested below are a broad guideline. Start small and increase the amounts to taste. Dress it very lightly.
10 parts Ketchup
1 part Sriracha (Huy Fong will work fine, but Shark is better if you can find it)
Prior to mixing:
As cabbages and such are not uniform in size and people's preference for heat varies widely, it's best to assemble this to taste. Start lightly with ketchup, a 1/4 cup will dress quite a bit of cabbage. Similarly, sriracha gets hot fast so start with a small amount, mix it in and taste. Continue adding ketchup and sriracha in small amounts until the balance is to your liking.
This is the slaw I served with the Hoisin Simmered Strips.