Chinese cooking consists of lots of stir fries without very set measurements - just throw everything into a pan! When I first made cabbage stir fry, I asked my mom how much salt and oil to add, and she just replied "a little." I found this rather confusing, so I discuss exactly what you need to make stir fry cabbage, an easy vegetable side dish.
- 1 head of cabbage
- oil for cooking
- optional aromatics: scallions, garlic, ginger
- optional: cooking wine
- optional seasonings: soy sauce, pepper, Sriracha, sesame oil
- optional herbs: cilantro, chives
- Cut off ⅛ inch from the bottom of the cabbage. Thinly slice.
- Heat up 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over high heat.
- If using aromatics, add them in and cook until fragrant and softened, about 1 minute.
- Add cabbage and cook to desired doneness. If using cooking wine, add in while the cabbage is cooking.
- When the cabbage is done, add in the seasoning and herbs.
- Cabbage: Required for stir fry cabbage. I suggest using Chinese cabbage, such as Napa or bok choy, instead of a large, round cabbage.
- Aromatics: Add flavor. Chinese cooking traditionally uses scallions, garlic, and ginger. I did not use any because I did not want to go through the additional prep. You should add aromatics first so they have a chance to use. How much should you use? Because a head of cabbage is very large, you have quite a bit of leeway.
- Scallion: Same as green onions. Anywhere from 1 scallion to the whole bunch would work depending on how much you like scallions. Cut off the sprouty end, and thinly slice.
- Garlic: A clove is a small, single segment of garlic. A bulb is fat, round and consists of multiple cloves. Anywhere from 1 clove to the whole bulb would work depending on how much you like garlic. Peel the garlic, and mince (cut into very small pieces).
- Ginger: You can either cut very big pieces of ginger or finely mince the ginger. If you cut big pieces of ginger, you should be able to pick out the ginger when you're eating. If you finely mince the ginger, you should be able to detect ginger flavor without chomping down on huge ginger chunks. Ginger has a strong flavor, so I would suggest not using very much, about a teaspoon.
- Cooking wine: You can use 1-2 tablespoons of rice wine or cooking wine to add depth and sweetness. I do not suggest using red or white wines in stir fries.
- Seasonings: Add flavor. For most seasonings, it does not matter when you add them to the stir fry. However, heating up sesame oil removes the sesame taste, so you should always add sesame oil last. Sesame oil has a strong flavor, so 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of sesame oil will flavor all of the cabbage. How much should you use? Again, a head of cabbage is very large, so you don't have to be super strict with the measurements. I will divide the seasonings into three broad categories:
- Salty: You can use soy sauce, oyster sauce, or salt. Start with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce, or 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Do not use all three. Add more until you think the cabbage is sufficiently salty. Soy sauce or oyster sauce will add more flavor than salt.
- Spicy: You can use hot sauce or red pepper flakes. I started with about a teaspoon of Sriracha because I did not want to make the cabbage too spicy.
- Sour/Sweet: You can add vinegar and sweetener. You can add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of vinegar. To balance the sourness, you can add the same quantity of sweetener. I use honey or brown sugar.
- Herbs: Add freshness and flavor. I never use these, but feel free to top your cabbage with chives or cilantro.
Step by Step Photos
If you're using any aromatics, prepare those first. If not, start by cutting off 1/8 inch from the end of the cabbage. To wash, put the cabbage in a very big bowl. Thoroughly rinse the cabbage under running water a few times to prevent crunchy sand in your stir fry. The number of times you wash the cabbage depends on how dirty the cabbage is and on how much you mind sand.
What should you do when you have no space left on the cutting board to cut cabbage? One option is to transfer the cut cabbage to a large bowl. After you finish cutting all of the cabbage, you can heat up 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the pan over high heat and start cooking.
However, at this point, I start cooking the cabbage, so the process goes faster. When the oil is hot, I transfer the cabbage from the cutting board to the pan. I continue cutting cabbage on the cutting board while occasionally stirring the pan.
By this point, all of the cabbage has shrunk considerably. The entire cooking process for cabbage only takes a few minutes. To tell if cabbage is done, try a piece and see if you like it. Turn off the heat, and add in seasonings. Serve immediately. Leftovers keep well in the fridge for a few days.