Napa Cabbage with Minced Meat - 烂糊肉丝

This is definitely not one of the most appealing dish in terms of "appearance" but when my friend cooked it, I felt it was one of the most homey comfy dishes one can get at home. Moreover, it imparts authentic Shanghai flavors and according to her (from Shanghai), is really quite Shanghai-nese. Its Chinese name is 烂糊肉丝 (pronounced Lan Hu Rou Shi) - literally meaning "mushy mixture of meat shreds". Well, even the name does not sound attractive, after my unprofessional translation, that is.

Yes indeed it is a popular homey dish in Shanghai (上海) and Zhejiang (浙江) province (partially bordering Shanghai), making use of Napa Cabbage - one of the few vegetables available during winter in this region. During the harsh winter and limited fresh produce, families often use Napa Cabbage to cook dishes that can be enjoyed by the entire family including the young and old. Due to the soft and moist texture, this dish is favored among the young and old, good with a bowl of steamed rice or congee. Very comforting and warms the stomach.

My friend also told me this mixture of Napa Cabbage and Meat is filling to Spring Rolls - Shanghai style! w00t! Am I in for a treat? My friend made these spring rolls for me. I tried it, and could only say two words - 好吃 ! (Hao Chi meaning Delicious). Because of the moist mixture, it made the spring rolls extra juicy inside while maintaining the external crisp on the spring roll skin. It's like melting cheese oozing out from some kind of crisp pastry (if I could closely associate it for my Western counterparts and friends).

Napa Cabbage with Shredded (or Minced) Meat - 烂糊肉丝
Ingredients: 2 cloves garlic, finely minced; Napa cabbage, rinsed and thinly sliced; minced chicken lightly seasoned with Chinese cooking wine, soy sauce and white pepper; fresh shitake mushrooms caps, thinly sliced (option); 1/2 tsp thickening agent such as corn flour (Note1: she used lotus root powder which is available in Asian supermarket in California), uniformly dissolving in warm water; pinch of salt and white pepper to taste; sesame oil for gloss and shine if dish is served as-is (note: option if you use as filling for spring rolls)

Directions: Heat some oil in pan. Add in garlic and meat and fry till fragrant.Once the meat is partially cooked and some "fats" from the meat is released to the pan, dish out meat. Add in cabbage and mushrooms and fry at medium heat. Add in some water or stock and allow to simmer till cabbage turns tender. Return the partially fried meat to the pan and continue to simmer till entire mixture is cooked (Note2: to serve dish as-is, you can allow more gravy VS filling for spring rolls in which you should allow mixture to simmer further till gravy is further reduced). Stir in thickening agent and gently stir the cooked mixture. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Dish out to serve. Drizzle sesame oil over mixture for "shine and gloss".

Note3: For making Spring Rolls, the mixture should be allowed to cool. Also , you should take care not to allow too much gravy into the spriing roll. Use 2 spoons to help you rid off the gravy before you place the vegetable + meat fillings on the spring roll wrapper.

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