Today I am going to share the most popular cabbage recipe in china – that will be Shou Si Bao Cai (手撕包菜). Bao cai is cabbage；shousi means ripped apart by hand which I will explain later. This is literally just stir fry cabbage but it is so basic and popular that if you ask any Chinese, they will know about this dish, period.
- 1.4 lb (640 grams) of Cabbage
- 1.5 tbsp of black vinegar
- 8-10 pieces of dry chilies (seeded and cut in half)
- 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
- 1 tsp of salt or to taste
- 2 tsp of soy sauce
- 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil to stir fry
Let’s talk about the cabbage because I want to show you 2 different types.
The one on the right is from Publix. As you can see, it is more like a ball shape and it is much heavier because the cabbage leaves are compacted tightly.
The one on the left is from an Asian market, the shape is a little bit flat. And the inside, the leaves are very loose. So it is light in weight.
You can compare the inside structure. Both are completely fine to use for this recipe. They will come out equally delicious. But if you want to match the name – The stir fry cabbage that’s rip apart by hand, you will want to use the Asian cabbage as it is much easier to tear apart. The regular one is too solid to work with your hand and you have to cut it with a knife.
I am only using half of this cabbage. Remove the hard center stem. Put both of your thumbs in the center and then break it apart. Tear all the pieces into smaller sizes. This way, you can get that jagged edges. I think it helps the flavor to infuse into the cabbage. I pick out some hard stem, you can slice it up and cook with it or discard it. Up to you.
Besides the cabbage, you will also need some garlic. Slice it thinly. 8-10 pieces of red dried chilies, just to get a little touch of hot feeling. Cut them into 1/2 inch pieces. Remove the seeds so it is not super hot. That’s it, let’s start cooking.
Heat up your wok. Add some vegetable oil. Toss it around to cover the bottom of the wok. Add the cabbage along with the garlic and dried chilies.
It looks overwhelming for now. Once the cabbage welted down, it will be a reasonable amount. I like to cook this on high heat to get some nice char. It will taste like roasted cabbage. You can cook this on medium heat so it will turn out a bit softer. It really depends on your own preference, because you can just eat cabbage raw.
Once you think it is almost at the point that you like, add 2 tsp of soy sauce and some salt to taste. Add some 1 tbsp of Chinese black vinegar. Continue to stir for a minute. Turn off the heat. Before taking it out of the wok, add the remaining black vinegar. This will stabilize the flavor Because the vinegar we add before evaporated a little bit during cooking.
There are lots of people that hate cabbage because it has a strong component of taste. I love it though. And I think the slight bitterness from the cabbage goes really well with the Chinese black vinegar. Sometimes if I don’t feel good, or I get homesick, I will make this dish and serve it with white rice. You probably will say, it just cabbage. Yeah, I don’t know why I am obsessed with stir fry cabbage. Maybe I am just deeply in touch with this flavor as my family cooks this all the time. I hope you give this a try soon.
Stir Fry Hand-torn Cabbage (手撕包菜)
- Cut the cabbage in half. Remove the hard center stem. Tear the cabbage into small sizes. If the cabbage is too solid to break apart by hand, you can cut it with a knife instead.
- Thinly slice a few cloves of garlic
- Cut 8-10 pieces of red dried chilies into half-inch long pieces. Remove the seeds and set it aside.
- Add some vegetable oil to a heated wok. Toss in the cabbage along with the garlic and dried chilies. Stir over high heat for a couple of minutes or until the cabbage is welted down.
- Add 2 tsp of soy sauce, 1 tsp of salt or to taste, and 1 tbsp of Chinese black vinegar. Continue to stir for a minute. Turn off the heat. Before serving, add the remaining black vinegar and mix. This will stabilize the flavor Because the vinegar we add before evaporated a little bit during cooking.