Chinkiang (black rice) vinegar has a malty, woody flavour that you may recognise from dim sum dipping sauces, where it’s often combined with soy or just served on its own. Adding it in the last moments of wok-frying lends a slightly sour but also a mellow quality to the pale, crisp but relatively bland Chinese cabbage; I find myself eating masses of it when cooked like this.
That flavour, along with the crunch and water content of the cabbage, makes it a killer side for fatty, rich or sweet dishes. I’m thinking soy and chilli-braised beef shin; teriyaki chicken, beef or salmon; or miso-braised aubergine.
- Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- 1 Chinese cabbage
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar
- 2 teaspoons golden caster sugar
- 4 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 4 cm fresh ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks
- 2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
- 1 teaspoon lightly crushed Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
- Prepare all the ingredients first, as the cooking process is quick. Cut the cabbage in half length ways, then each of those halves in two again. Cut out the core from the base of each quarter, then roughly chop the lengths into 5 or 6 pieces width ways. Mix the soy sauce, vinegar and caster sugar together in a bowl and set to one side.
- Place a large wok over a very high heat, add the oil and allow it to heat almost until it smokes. Drop the ginger into the hot oil and let this soften for 30 seconds before adding the chilli flakes and Sichuan peppercorns (if using), then pretty much immediately start to add the pieces of cabbage cut from the harder (root) end. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, before adding the softer top part of the cabbage. Cook for 45 seconds more, stirring occasionally, before pushing the cabbage to one side and pouring the soy sauce mixture in. Quickly move the cabbage around for 20–30 seconds, then remove from the heat so that the cabbage takes on the flavours of vinegar and soy but retains its bite. Serve immediately.