Do you ever make something with the best intention and then shove it to the back of the fridge only to forget about it? That’s what happened to me and a jar of Chinese hot and sour napa cabbage. I’d made it around Chinese New Year and at the last minute, decided to not serve it because it didn’t go with the Vietnamese pickles that I’d prepared. I put it away, only to rediscover it months later this afternoon. It tasted fine and I ended up snacking on about a quarter of the jar before dinner. It’s suppose to be a palate arouser.
This is an unusual pickle for a couple of reasons. It’s tangy and spicy from the seasonings and the cabbage is salted and squeezed to eliminate excess moisture. Those are pretty standard approaches but there’s a stir-frying process involved which adds a touch of oil. The result is fatty tasting and luscious.
We don’t tend to think of pickles as being rich but the Chinese figured out a way to imbue that quality into humble napa cabbage. I was totally impressed after I initially made the pickled cabbage, but even more so months later when I found in the back of the fridge. Despite the chiles and ginger, this is no kimchi as there’s no fermentation. Just a friendly pickle.
What and how to enjoy this pickle? I nibbled it as is, but it would be great as a side dish in a meal of dumplings such as pot stickers. It would be great with a few other small bites, such as the salted caramelized walnuts and chilled edamame with star anise. I’ve suggested more snackies below. Also search the VWK recipe index for ideas.
Use a pristine head of napa or discard tired looking leaves before cutting the cabbage for this pickle.
Hot and Sour Napa Cabbage Pickle
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
- 1 pound (450 g) napa cabbage
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 to 3 teaspoons minced ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon dried red chile flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons regular soy sauce
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoon cider vinegar
- Cut a 1/2 to 3/4-inch (about 2 cm) thick slice off the bottom of the head of cabbage. Cut that base into 8 to 10 wedges. Those pieces give the pickle some nice body and texture. Cut the leaves that you now have into pieces about 1 inch thick and 2 inches long. As needed, halve the big leaves lengthwise before cutting them crosswise.
- Put the cabbage in a bowl and toss with salt. Cover and let sit 4 to 6 hours, or overnight at room temperature. It’ll wilt.
- Drain and rinse the cabbage well. By the handful, give it a squeeze to remove excess moisture. Replace in the bowl. Set near the stove.
- Heat a large wok or skillet over high heat, then swirl in the oil. Add the peppercorns, ginger, and chile flakes, stirring briskly until aromatic, about 10 seconds. Add the cabbage, stir-fry to combine, then add the soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes to allow the seasonings to penetrate the cabbage. Lower the heat slightly to enable you to gauge the flavor. Tweak it as needed. I aim for a tart-sweetness. When you’re satisfied, transfer the cabbage and seasonings to a bowl or jar. Let cool before eating. Better yet, cover and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours before eating. Serve chilled, which means you can eat it out of the bowl or jar!
More small snackies:
- Salted caramelized walnuts
- Chilled cucumber with garlic *
- Watermelon radish and cucumber salad *
- Chilled edamame with star anise
- Celery and carrot tossed with sesame
* On AsianDumplingTips.com