How many people are genuinely excited to find cabbage on a menu? Not stuffed cabbage rolls or cabbage with corned beef, but just cabbage, dense green leaves alone, sans modifiers. In the US, I’d wager that number would fall somewhere in the lowest possible percentile rank, but that’s only because of inexperience taming the brassica. Take a trip out to Taiwan though, and you’d see very different polling results. Elevating a more diverse range of lesser loved greens as some might honor fine cuts of meat, the dining scene treats vegetables with much greater respect simply by default. Every crop is treasured, allowed to shine in their own rights, and that’s where I first truly discovered my affinity for the humble cabbage.
Stir-fried on the hot teppanyaki grill that stretches in a horseshoe around mad scrambling chefs in the center, huge piles of shredded greenery wilt down into compact piles instantly. Intense heat sears the bottom, locking in a light touch of char, smoky and dark, while the upper leaves steam into meltingly soft submission. With a front seat to the full show, I watched rapt, the drama unfolding hot and heavy before my eyes. In a sudden plot twist, no more than five minutes after placing the initial order, the hot foil in front of me was filled with steaming strands of silky greenery, theoretically keeping warm for prolonged enjoyment but devoured just as quickly as it had been completed.
How could plain, ugly old cabbage taste so good? It was almost infuriating how delicious this completely ungarnished dish was. There were no tricks, not even MSG to bolster it, and yet I had never experienced anything like it before.
Everything comes down to ingredients, of course. Since there are so few of them, every last addition makes a huge impact, right down to the quality of the beans going into the soy sauce. Most essential is selecting Taiwanese cabbage, which is different from more common savoy, white, red, or standard North American green. Flat, smooth, and the size of a small kitchen appliance, it’s not uncommon for them to weigh in at 6 pounds a head or more. Much sweeter and more crisp than most drab coleslaw fodder, it has the integrity to speak for itself in such a bold feature. Head to your local international market and ask for Li-Sun cabbage or Li-Sun Sweet cabbage if you’re struggling to pin one down.
From there, season with a deft hand. Remember that everything else is used to amplify the greenery here, not cover it up. It’s hard to explain the incredible depth of this dish without actually placing a few sizzling strands of it directly into your mouth, but I’ll resist. For that first, doubtful attempt, it takes a bit of blind trust, but you’ll understand that magnetic attraction once that alchemical transformation happens right before your plate.
Stir-Fried Taiwanese Cabbage
Cabbage like you've never tasted before. Tender, rich, and almost buttery, this fast stir-fry will change the way you think about the humble green leaves.
- 1 Tablespoon Avocado or Peanut Oil
- 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 1 Pound Taiwanese Cabbage, Sliced into 1/2-Inch Wide Ribbons
- 1 Tablespoon Light Soy Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Shaoxing Rice Wine Vinegar
- 1 Teaspoon Sugar
- 1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
- 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
- Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, and cook for a few seconds until aromatic and lightly browned. Stir in the cabbage until all the pieces are thoroughly coated in oil before covering the pan. Let cook, undisturbed, for 1 minute.
- Sprinkle in the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes (if using) and salt all at once, increasing the heat to high, and cook until the cabbage is tender; 2 - 4 minutes. Serve immediately.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 50Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 276mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 1g
19 thoughts on “Of Cabbages and Kings”
I just posted about cabbage too! I love cabbages, and here in Israel they are at their best this time of the year:)
I love cabbages (my comment seems to have disappeared ) and just posted about cabbage:)
I made stir-fry cabbage with black bean sauce OR with lots of ginger juice only. I love cabbage too!
Me, I adore cabbage and adding it to any recipe I can. This looks perfect, love the simplicity and flavors, thanks!
Your description makes me want to pack a bag and head to Taiwan.
I have to admit I’m generally not excited about cabbage but this recipe does indeed sound delicious and you photographed it beautifully!
[…] chunks. Taiwanese Cabbage gets a similar treatment, providing one of the few great examples of the concept this side of the […]
I really loved this dish! I had never tried Taiwan cabbage before but happened to have some that I just purchased. I added some enoki mushrooms in the last minute because they needed to be used. I will make this over and over again!
This truly makes my day! I’m so thrilled it was such a hit, and the mushroom addition sounds fantastic. I’ll have to try that one next time, tool.
I had just come across your blog and tried your recipe immediately after cuz it’s simple to follow. It turned out to be the best cabbage dish I have ever cooked. The key is no water! Thank you! 😘
Wow, now that is a compliment of the highest order! I’m so happy you enjoyed it. Thank -you-!
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[…] also need:4 portions of cooked white riceSides of your choice: sauteed preserved mustard greens, stir-fried cabbage, tofu, steamed vegetables…Directions1. On a sturdy cutting board or countertop, lay down a […]
Is that chinkiang vinegar or Shoaxing wine? Both would work but which did you use?
Good catch! It should be wine.
Wow! You’re fast! Thanks cuz I don’t really like chinkiang vinegar (and I’m the minority here on that). I am moments away from dumping that vinegar concoction and doing the wine thing instead. Thanks!
Truly happy to help! Always trust your gut and make it the way you think you’d enjoy it best. :)
And…awesome recipe. A cabbage-hater loved it. Thanks a bunch, Hannah!