Monday, April 26, 2010

Stir-Fry Cabbage, no Oyster Sauce, where's the flavor? 清炒高丽菜

I have not used oyster sauce in my cooking for quite some time. The only "dark" sauce I have in my pantry is dark soy sauce (the type which give more "color" rather than sodium). So how do you stir fry vegetables? You ask me. Sans oyster sauce but with garlic and ginger to add flavor and sometimes, "steal" one big spoonful of ground meat (chicken) from 1/2lb bag (that I use for the other "meaty" dishes) - this trick comes in handy many times (Tip: When I buy 1/2lb ground meat and that is excess for any meaty dish I am planning to make for the week, I will scoop out 1-2 tablespoonfuls of ground meat and keep them frozen separately in another freezer bag on the same day I am back with my groceries.). This "2 tablespoonfuls" of ground meat can be very useful when stir frying vegetables.

And I absolutely think Chinese vegetables stir-fry can do without oyster sauce. Yes? No?


Then you question me - to know 1/2lb is excess and to be able to separate out that little quantity means I have to do menu planning? Ok, if you don't plan, omit the ground meat.

Vegetarian? By all means, omit the meat. You can't use oyster sauce anyway if intended to be vegetarian.

Cabbage is so naturally sweet-tasting that it shines as the star without meat. How can this be bland?

With garlic, ginger, add a little turmeric, then pinch of salt and white pepper, it is still a very tasty vegetable(vegetarian) dish.Make it Indian-Style Cabbage. Recipe is similar to below except...omit chicken, soy sauce, cooking wine; instead have some cumin, fennel, turmeric and curry powder for that tinge of spice in the cabbage dish. These spices also add a little flavor contrast to the otherwise sweet-tasting cabbage and achieve good balance in the final dish. How can this be bland?

Vegetarian Stir-Fry Cabbage with Spices (adapted from recipe below)

Stir-Fry Round Cabbage with Chicken - 清炒高丽菜
Ingredients: 2 tablespoons ground chicken; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 1-cm knob ginger, minced; 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine; 1/2 head round cabbage, sliced into bite-sizes; salt and white pepper to taste

Directions: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in pan/wok, add ginger, then garlic and fry till fragrant. Add the ground chicken, breaking up into smaller bits while frying to brown it, adding soy sauce, and then cooking wine (Note: drizzle cooking wine along the edges/side wall of the wok for more aroma in the heat of the pan). Add cabbage, fry and mix with ground meat. Add 3-5 tablespoons of water, salt and white pepper to taste, cover the wok/pan and allow to simmer at low-medium heat till cabbage turns tender. Simmer till mixture reduces. Dish out and serve warm.

Speckles of meat in cabbage but good enough...

How can cabbage ever taste bland? From its raw form to its cooked outcome (and depending on how long you cook it for), there are varying degrees of natural-sweet-taste in this vegetable. It's like a progressive taste with heat.

Personally, I also think Napa Cabbage (大白菜and Chinese Round Cabbage (高丽菜) can never be exact substitute for each other when called for in recipes. These two cabbages taste different and so are the textures (when cooked). Even the nutrition and highlighted benefit is different: Napa Cabbage often for dietary fiber vs Round Cabbage for Vitamin C and K. For usage, I prefer Napa cabbage as wraps and having them steamed as Napa take shorter time to cook. Stir-frying and in soups - I used these two cabbages interchangeably, depending on what I am looking for.

Only the Cabbage Patch Kids look bland (un-cute and unexciting) to me. Not cabbage. Never cabbage. Yes? No? ^o^

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