Hot and Sour Cabbage

This was originally a Sichuan dish but it is now very popular throughout China. Naturally, there are several versions as people from different regions have adapted it to their taste. This recipe is supposed to be the authentic one, as it was given to my mother by one of her friends who is a native of Sichuan.

1 1/2 lb (680 g) green or white cabbage
a few dried red chillis
about 10-12 Sichuan peppercorns
3-4 tbsp oil
1 1/2 tsp salt

For the sauce

2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sesame seed oil

Choose a round, pale green cabbage with a firm heart, as fresh as possible; the white Dutch variety is a good substitute, but never use loose-leafed spring greens. Wash it in cold water, and tear the leaves by hand into small pieces the size of a matchbox. Cut the red chillis into small bits (discard the seeds if you don’t like it hot!), mix the sauce in a bowl and have it handy.

First heat the wok or pan, add the oil and wait for it to smoke before throwing in the peppercorns and chillis to flavour the oil. Before they are burnt quickly add the cabbage, stir until it starts to go limp – this will take about 1 minute – then add salt and continue stirring for another ½ minute or so. Then pour in the sauce and stir for a short while to allow the sauce to mix in well. The cabbage is most delicious either hot or cold.

© Deh-Ta Hsiung and reproduced with his kind permission.