Why It Works
- Convenient, flavorful pantry ingredients add an extra dimension to this simple vegetable side.
- Using the shiitake soaking liquid to cook the cabbage infuses the dish with more flavor and provides a soupier consistency that's perfect for serving over rice.
You've gotta eat your greens, but that doesn't mean they have to be a boring one-dimensional counterpart to a more flavorful, hearty course. In Taiwan, for instance, simple braised cabbage gets a boost from small tidbits of dried shrimp, fresh chiles, and garlic, with a generous sprinkle of shiitakes to round things out. It's a common way of preparing the winter vegetable, and few family-style meals would be complete without it.
Those flavorful add-ins are among the most readily available in the Taiwanese pantry. The subtropical island enjoys sweet, red, and mildly hot small chiles year-round; baby shrimp are dried and stored for convenience as well as pungency. Shiitake mushrooms can be obtained fresh but are often preferred dried and reconstituted—their tasty soaking liquid makes an excellent broth for braised dishes like this one.
There are many types of cabbages that could be used in this braise. The typical Taiwanese cabbage has a rather flattened, round shape, with leaves that are less densely packed than your common green cabbage. That said, you can easily swap in green cabbage or, on the other end of the spectrum, the much softer, more watery napa cabbage instead. Savoy cabbage, with its ruffly, fluffy leaves and sweet taste, would be an excellent substitute, too. Should you spot a squashed-looking head of otherwise luminous, pale-green cabbage in an Asian market, though, that's the stuff.
Soupier than the average sauté, this vegetable side course is great for pooling atop plain rice, lending subtle flavor to the entire bowl. Any time of year is a good time to eat plenty of cabbage. But with winter options thinned out to a few fresh greens, here's one way to really spruce things up.
4 to 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons dried baby shrimp
1 head Taiwanese cabbage (or substitute with green or Savoy cabbage), about 2 pounds (see note)
2 tablespoons vegetable, peanut, or canola oil
3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 small, fresh red chiles, such as Thai chiles, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Soak dried shiitake mushrooms in 2 cups water until all mushrooms are soft throughout, about 20 minutes. Reserve soaking liquid (strain out any crumbs or solids at the bottom if necessary). Squeeze out mushrooms and remove stems. Slice caps thinly and set aside.
Soak dried baby shrimp in just enough water to cover until slightly soft and moist, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Slice cabbage head in halves, then quarters. Cut out tough stem portions and discard. Coarsely shred remaining leaves.
Heat oil in a large pan or wok with a lid over medium-high heat. Add garlic, chiles, dried shrimp, and sliced shiitake mushrooms. Stir until very fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add cabbage to pan along with white pepper and a pinch of salt. Toss occasionally, until its volume has decreased slightly and oil and other ingredients are incorporated throughout, 1 to 2 minutes.
Pour in reserved soaking liquid from mushrooms and stir. Cover pan, reduce heat slightly, and cook at a steady simmer for 5 to 6 minutes. Check on the dish; once leaves are fully wilted and translucent, remove lid. Taste and season with salt as desired. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Look for Taiwanese cabbage, with its broad, flattened heads and softer, sweet leaves, in Asian produce markets.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 5g||6%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||2%|
|Total Carbohydrate 10g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||12%|
|Total Sugars 4g|
|Vitamin C 58mg||291%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|