Fire cabbage

Hi! It’s me (Sarah) again! Chiming in seems a teeny bit inauthentic at this point, since posting on a food blog implies that I’ve been cooking, which is not entirely true. I have been eating surprisingly well for a surgical resident, but that has been all Dennis’ doing. Without him around, I think I would be about 50% Clif bars, 30% coffee, and 20% peanut butter. It would be a bleak existence indeed. Instead, most days I open the front door to the sound of something sizzling and some combination of ginger, garlic and chili wafting around. Let me tell you, after a day of race-walking around the hospital, those are some lovely sounds and smells to come home to. Because of him, I may be one of the first surgical residents in history to not lose several pounds during my first rotation. Of course, the weight maintenance could also be due to all of the graham crackers and ginger ale I keep stealing from the patient nourishment closets, but I digress.

With respect to meal prep, I pitch in when I can, joining Dennis in the kitchen when I have a weekend day off, and taking the lead on the rare days that I actually beat him home. While I would love to say that I use those times to try one of the many new recipes that I’ve earmarked in blogs and books over the past months, more often I turn to something tried and true that I know we both love. One of those star recipes for me is a concoction we call ‘fire cabbage’. The inspiration for fire cabbage originally came from a recipe I found in Bon Appetit, but we have since riffed on it and morphed it enough that I feel comfortable claiming it as our own. It may just be the German half of me talking, but I have long felt that cabbage is one of the most under-rated and underutilized vegetables – it is crazy cheap, keeps for weeks in the crisper, and is remarkably versatile. In this recipe, it gets gussied up with some of our favorite flavors – garlic, ginger and chilis. We tend to fancy things up by mixing in some pickled mustard green stems and topping the whole mess with some minced thai basil, but that is only because we regularly have those sorts of things lying around the house – it will still be delicious if you simply top it with a fried egg and call it a day. That said, the thai basil really does transform the dish if you can find it – it adds a vaguely sweet herbal dimension that cuts through the burn of the sambal oelek.


Fire Cabbage

  • 1 head green cabbage, sliced into thin (1/4″) ribbons
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 2 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1-2 T sambal oelek (to taste)
  • 1-2 T pickled mustard stems (optional)

Heat some oil (either sesame or vegetable oils work well here) in a wok over high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the cabbage. After a few minutes, once the cabbage begins to soften, add in the remaining ingredients. Cook for several more minutes, until the cabbage is cooked through. There is plenty of wiggle room in the cooking time – you can keep everything in the wok for mere minutes if you prefer a more crisp, slaw-like cabbage, or you can cook the cabbage down to silky ribbons. I lean more in the ‘silky ribbons’ direction, but it truly is a matter of preference. Serve the cabbage over rice, topped with a fried egg (with a runny yoke, non-negotiable). Top with thai basil, if you can find it.



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