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
Makes about 1 1/2
- 1 pound (450 g) napa cabbage
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan
- 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:
cucumber with garlic *
radish and cucumber salad *
edamame with star anise
and carrot tossed with sesame
* On AsianDumplingTips.com