How to Make Zentan’s Singapore Slaw

Learn how to prepare Susur Lee's crunchy, colorful signature dish.

The Singapore Slaw at chef Susur Lee’s new restaurant, Zentan, is an eye-popping twist on a lo hei salad, traditionally eaten during the Chinese New Year. The slaw is served at all of his restaurants, including Madeline’s in Toronto and Shang in New York. In the video below, Susur shows how to prepare his crunchy and colorful creation and demonstrates the proper way to serve it (among friends, with lots of chopsticks). It’s not very difficult to prepare, but does involve a fair amount of shopping (and chopping). Seedlings can be found at some specialty markets, but if you can’t find them, Lee suggests substituting an array of julienned herbs.

Singapore Slaw With Salted Plum Dressing

Serves 4

2 green onions, both white and green parts, julienned
1 taro, peeled and julienned
2 ounces rice vermicelli noodles, broken into three pieces
1 large English cucumber, julienned
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
1 small jicama, peeled and julienned
1 daikon, peeled and julienned
2 large roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 pickled red onion (see recipe below)
4 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
6 teaspoons crushed roasted hazelnuts
4 teaspoons fried shallots
4 teaspoons edible-flower petals
4 teaspoons micro purple basil
4 teaspoons micro beet greens
4 teaspoons daikon sprouts
2 tablespoons pickled ginger
1½ cups salted-plum dressing (see recipe below)
Vegetable oil for frying
Salt as needed

Soak the green onion in a bowl of very cold water to keep it crisp. Heat a large pot of oil. When the temperature reaches 400 degrees, deep-fry half of the taro for 2 minutes, or until crisp and light gold in color. Remove slices from the oil, place on a paper towel, and lightly salt. Repeat with the rest of the taro. With the oil at the same temperature, quickly deep-fry the vermicelli, half at a time, for 2 seconds, or until they curl. Remove the vermicelli from the oil, place on a paper towel, and lightly salt.

To serve: Remove the green onion from the bowl and drain. Divide the vermicelli equally between four plates and arrange the cucumber, carrot, jicama, daikon, tomatoes, and pickled red onion around the noodles. Top with the fried taro.

Sprinkle the salad with the sesame seeds, hazelnuts, and fried shallots. Sprinkle the flowers, micro greens, daikon sprouts, and pickled ginger on the salad and serve with salted plum dressing on the side.

Pickled Red Onion

1 red onion, peeled and julienned
1 cup rice-wine vinegar
1 cup water
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme

Place the onion in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar and water to a boil. Season the mixture with the salt, peppercorns, fennel seeds, bay leaf, and thyme; continue boiling for another 5 minutes. While it’s still hot, pour it over the julienned onion and let it sit for 1 hour.

Salted Plum Dressing

1 cup salted-plum (ume) paste
½ cup rice-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon mirin
1 teaspoon dashi
1½ teaspoons onion oil (recipe below)
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon peeled and chopped fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon sea salt

Place all the ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth.

Onion Oil

Makes about 1 cup

1½ to 2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups loosely packed chopped leeks, white part only
2 green onions, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped

In a medium saucepan set over high heat, combine all the ingredients. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Decrease the heat to medium-high and cook for another 5 minutes, then decrease the heat to medium. Cook the mixture for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions and leeks are crispy and brown. Remove the pan from the heat and strain the oil into a bowl. Discard the solids. Let the oil cool before transferring it to a jar. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

More>> Best Bites Blog | Food & Dining | Restaurant Finder 

Follow the Best Bites Bloggers on Twitter at


Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.