Cabbage Ham Salad

Believe it or not, cabbage is quite poetic. Beyond those round balls of leaves in meticulously planted fields, it has an association with the pesky yet endearing cabbage butterfly, which often makes the fields its home. There’s something charming about the playful butterflies wandering above the meticulously planted rows. On the menu in restaurants in Japan, you most often find cabbage thinly sliced and served with deep-fried vegetables or proteins, or else as the base for the Japanese-style savory pancake okonomiyaki. In homestyle cooking, cabbage often sneaks its way into stews, pickles and salads. (Serves 3-4)

The day I made this salad, it seemed like spring had come at last. Outside I could hear the faint dripping of the gutter - the snow outside was melting. Sun was pouring in, making the kitchen very hot - but also very bright and cheerful. In Japan there's an expression "Hare Onna" - the woman who brings the sun. You can also say "Hare Otoko" which is - the man who brings the sun. To me, this was "Hare sarada" - the salad which brings the sun.  


1 small cabbage (or ½ of a medium cabbage)
2 tablespoons corn kernels (canned or frozen)
4 to 5 slices deli-style ham, finely chopped
1 piece foil-wrapped processed cheese, chopped (or 2 tablespoons chopped white creamy cheese; mild Cheddar or Gouda work well)
½ small cucumber, thinly sliced, salted and the moisture squeezed out with a paper towel
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
A dash of rice vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste


Plastic wrap, bowl, paper towels


1.       Wrap the cabbage in plastic wrap, and microwave about 2 minutes. The cabbage should be slightly cooked but still crunchy. Allow the cabbage to cool, and chop into bite-size pieces. Using a paper towel or cheesecloth, squeeze out the excess liquid.

2.       In a bowl, stir together the cabbage, corn, ham, cheese and cucumber.

3.       Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, and salt and black pepper to taste. Stir into the cabbage mixture. Let sit for five minutes, then serve.

Note: This salad will keep in the refrigerator well for 1 to 2 days.