Cabbage is an adaptable vegetable that can be transformed into a quick, healthy, and tasty meal with the right preparation. Enter Chinese cabbage stir fry – a fast, easy dish that highlights cabbage’s best qualities. This article will provide everything you need to know to make this flavorful stir fry at home.
Selecting the Best Cabbage for Stir Frying
Choosing the right type of cabbage is the first step to stir fry success. Many varieties work well, but Napa cabbage is the best choice. Napa cabbage has soft, ruffled leaves that cook rapidly but keep a satisfying crunch. The mild, slightly sweet flavor also pairs well with stir-fry sauces. Look for heads with crisp, tightly packed leaves, avoiding any with browning or sliminess.
Prepping the Cabbage and Other Ingredients
Proper prep ensures quick cooking and the best texture. The cabbage’s outer leaves should be stripped of any wilt. Cut the head in half lengthwise, then into 1/2-inch strips across the leaves. Stack a few strips and slice into 1/4-inch wide pieces. Keep the sliced cabbage pieces fluffy and separated as you prep other ingredients.
Thinly sliced chicken breast, pork, shrimp, or extra firm tofu are all good options for a protein boost. Chop bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, and snap peas to add color and crunch. Mince 2 cloves garlic and grate a 1-inch knob of fresh ginger.
Selecting the Best Cooking Equipment
A well-seasoned wok and a good pair of cooking chopsticks are ideal, but a large nonstick skillet will also work. Heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in the wok or skillet over high heat until shimmering. Have all ingredients within easy reach before starting to stir fry.
Quickly Stir Frying for the Best Flavor and Texture
Once the oil is very hot, add the protein and stir fry briefly until it browns. Remove and set aside. Add the garlic, ginger, and any dense vegetables like carrots. Stir fry for 1 minute.
Add the cabbage and continue stir-frying for 2 minutes, keeping the ingredients moving constantly. The cabbage will start to wilt and brown slightly.
Return the protein to the wok or skillet. Add the sauce ingredients – 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, a splash of rice wine vinegar, and a pinch of sugar. Continue stir-frying for 1 final minute until the sauce coats everything. Serve immediately after adding toasted sesame seeds and thinly sliced green onions.
Sauce Options to Suit Any Taste
The simple sauce above allows the fresh cabbage flavor to shine. But it’s also easy to customize your stir fry with different sauce ingredients. Here are some tasty options:
- Spicy Sichuan Sauce – 1 Tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, 3 dried chiles, 2 tsp chili oil, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar
- Ginger Sauce – 3 Tbsp minced ginger, 1 Tbsp rice wine, 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
- Garlic Sauce – 6 minced garlic cloves, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp honey
- Sweet and Tangy Sauce – 3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, 2 Tbsp honey
Making it a Full Meal
While cabbage stir fry is delicious, it also pairs well with other healthy side dishes. Here are some options:
- Steamed jasmine or brown rice
- Sautéed greens like spinach or chard
- Roasted broccoli or Brussels sprouts
- Veggie fried rice
Enjoy added protein with tofu, eggs, chicken, beef or shrimp. The possibilities are endless!
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
The leftover cabbage stir fry is stored and refrigerated well for 3-4 days. Gently reheat in a skillet with a little water until thoroughly hot. The texture will soften, but it will still taste great.
Cabbage stir fry also freezes nicely for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating. Before serving, add a dash of soy sauce and vinegar.
Recipes for Delicious Cabbage Stir Fries
Here are two recipe options so you can make your Chinese cabbage stir fry at home:
Chicken and Napa Cabbage Stir Fry
- 1 lb of 1-inch-long chunks of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 medium head Napa cabbage, sliced (about 6 cups)
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chicken pieces should be mixed with soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Let marinate for 10-15 minutes.
- In a wok or sizable skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add chicken and stir fry until browned, about 3-5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Add garlic, ginger, bell pepper and stir fry for 1 minute.
- Add cabbage and continue stir-frying for 2 minutes.
- Return chicken to the pan and stir fry for 1 final minute.
- Serve immediately over steamed rice.
Tofu and Cabbage Stir Fry
- drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, one block of extra-firm tofu
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small head of Napa cabbage, sliced (about 4 cups)
- 1 carrot, julienned
- 2 green onions, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 inch ginger, grated
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- Toss tofu cubes with cornstarch—Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add tofu and stir fry until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.
- Add garlic, ginger, carrot and stir fry for 1 minute.
- Add cabbage and stir fry for 2 minutes until starting to wilt.
- Return the tofu to the wok. Use rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes.
- Stir fry for 1 final minute until sauce coats everything.
- Top with green onions and serve over rice.
Chinese cabbage stir-fries of restaurant-quality may be made at home with a few basic ingredients and little preparation. Experiment with different proteins, vegetables, and sauces until you find your favorite combination. Your taste buds will thank you!
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of cabbage is best for stir fry?
Napa cabbage is the cabbage variety most often used for stir-fries. Its delicate leaves swiftly cook while preserving a satisfying crunch. Bok choy or regular green cabbage can also be used.
Can I prepare the stir fry with chicken instead of tofu?
Lean chicken breast or thigh meat cut into bite-sized pieces makes a tasty protein addition to cabbage stir fry. Marinate it first in some soy sauce and cornstarch for extra flavor.
What is the best cooking equipment for stir-frying?
A well-seasoned wok and a set of long cooking chopsticks are ideal, but a large nonstick skillet also works well. The key is maintaining high heat and constant motion when cooking.
Why does my stir-fried cabbage turn out soggy?
Overcooking is usually the culprit when cabbage gets soggy and limp. Be sure to stir fry over high heat for just 1-2 minutes until it starts to wilt while retaining some crunch.
Can I prepare the stir-fry sauce in advance?
Mix up a batch of your favorite stir-fry sauce beforehand. Store it in the fridge for up to 5 days before using. Add to the hot wok just before the end of cooking.