Why It Works
- Briefly stir-frying coarsely chopped garlic in hot oil draws out its aroma, and flavors the oil that will coat the pieces of cabbage.
- Adding drops of water around the sides of the wok during the stir-frying process helps to lightly steam the cabbage, while still maintaining its refreshing crunch.
- White pepper lends the dish a subtle “cold heat” spice that balances the sweet bitterness of the garlic and the cabbage.
Galam plee pad nam pla—Thai stir-fried cabbage with fish sauce—is a vegetable dish that can easily fit in as a component to a multi-dish Thai meal, playing the perfect foil to a rich curry. Or it can stand on its own as light lunch, served with jasmine rice. With just a few pantry-friendly ingredients, galam plee pad nam pla comes together in less than 10 minutes thanks to high-heat wok cooking, a technique that illustrates the influence of Chinese cooking in Thai cuisine.
We begin by stir-frying bite-sized pieces of green cabbage with oil and chopped garlic in a ripping hot wok. Constant stirring and tossing prevents the garlic from burning, and helps lightly coat the cabbage leaves with oil, keeping them separate so they don't clump and turn soggy as they cook. Then we add drops of water around the sides of the wok, allowing the cabbage to lightly steam and soften without losing its refreshing crunch. A splash of fish sauce, also added around the sides of the hot wok, gives the cabbage a salty-savory punch. A finishing pinch of ground white pepper balances the sweet-bitter garlic and cabbage.
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable oil
- 5 garlic cloves (20g), crushed and roughly chopped (see notes)
- 1/2 small head green cabbage, cored, leaves separated and cut into 2-inch pieces (yielding about 7 ounces; 200g total)
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) fish sauce
- Ground white pepper
- Cooked jasmine rice, for serving
In a wok or large carbon steel or stainless steel skillet, heat oil over high heat until just smoking. Move wok off-heat, add the garlic, and cook, keeping the wok off-heat and stirring constantly to prevent garlic from burning, until fragrant and lightly golden, about 30 seconds.
Return wok to high heat, add the cabbage, and cook, stirring and tossing rapidly to ensure garlic doesn’t burn and cabbage is evenly coated in oil. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, and begin to carefully add a few drops of water, in 1/4-teaspoon increments around the sides of the wok, making sure water has fully evaporated between each addition, until cabbage is crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add fish sauce around the sides of the wok, and continue to cook, tossing and stirring constantly, until fish sauce is fully absorbed into the cabbage, about 30 seconds. Season to taste with white pepper, transfer to a serving plate, and serve immediately with cooked jasmine rice on the side.
Wok, or large carbon steel or stainless steel skillet
The garlic in this dish is intentionally roughly chopped into pieces of varying sizes; do not finely mince the garlic as it will burn more easily. To prepare imperfectly perfect chopped garlic, smash the peeled cloves on a cutting board with the back of a knife, then give them a coarse chop.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Stir-fried cabbage is best enjoyed immediately.