The chefs at my culinary school in Guangzhou would often whip up this homestyle dish for our family lunches. Tossed on the stinging-hot sides of a wok, cabbage leaves wilt quickly and caramelize on the edges; this recipe makes them aromatic with dried red chiles and Sichuan peppercorns, and laces them in a savory, vinegar-tinged sauce. Use your wok or skillet over the highest flame, and you should still get a nice seared-in juiciness and aroma without an industrial burner. If you’re doubling the recipe, stir-fry it in two batches to avoid overcrowding the wok, which would steam rather than sear the cabbage. When prepping the cabbage, tear the leaves with your hands instead of using a knife for maximum raggedy edges—Chinese cooks swear it tastes better this way. The best cabbage for stir-frying is the flat-headed, looser Taiwanese cabbage, which has sweeter and more tender leaves.
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinkiang black vinegar
2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon MSG (optional)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
12 ounces (330 grams) green cabbage leaves, preferably flat-head cabbage
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
5 dried red chiles, cut into 1-inch pieces and seeds shaken out
3 garlic cloves, minced
MAKE THE SAUCE: In a small bowl, stir together the sauce ingredients to combine well.
PREPARE THE STIR-FRY: Tear the cabbage leaves into roughly 3-inch squares.
Heat a wok over high heat until a bead of water evaporates within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Add the vegetable oil and swirl to coat the sides of the wok. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the ginger and Sichuan peppercorns and stir-fry until aromatic, just a few seconds. Add the dried chiles and stir-fry until they begin to darken, about 20 seconds. Add the garlic and stir-fry for 10 seconds, until fragrant but not yet browned.
Increase the heat to the highest setting and add the cabbage. Stir briskly until the leaves are coated in the fragrant oil and starting to reduce in volume, about 30 seconds. Pour the prepared sauce down the hot sides of the wok to release its flavor and stir-fry for about 30 seconds longer, until the cabbage leaves are softened and slightly caramelized on the edges but still crisp. Take the wok off the heat, transfer the cabbage to a dish, and serve.
Reprinted with permission from The Vegan Chinese Kitchen by Hannah Che copyright © 2022. Photographs by Hannah Che. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
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