As some readers may have noticed, I’ve developed somewhat of an obsession lately with Southeast Asian stir-fries. I just love how much flavor can be extracted from so few ingredients, and this dish is no exception. I wanted to use up the jar of homemade pickled cabbage* I opened as a condiment for last week’s khao soi, so I threw the rest of it in a blistering-hot skillet with some garlic, minced Thai chiles (left over from last week’s chicken-and-basil stir-fry) and a splash of fish sauce. I intended to serve it by itself, but it was so sour, salty, sweet and spicy on its own that I was able to fold it into rice and stretch it into an extremely filling meal for two. Even if you’re not a wild and enthusiastic fan of cabbage flavor, you’ll like this—as I do—because it tastes absolutely nothing like cabbage.
*Kimchi, basically, but in the Thai style of just plain vinegar and sugar, no pepper. From “Hot Salty Sour Sweet”: Chop a head of savoy or napa cabbage into small pieces, spread on two large baking sheets, cover with kitchen towels, and leave in a warm place until wilted, between 6 and 12 hours. (Otherwise it won’t fit in the jars.) Dissolve 1 cup sugar and 2 T kosher salt in 2 cups vinegar (rice vinegar is preferable, but white vinegar works fine). Pack the cabbage into two large jars and pour the vinegar-sugar mixture to cover. I had to add a little water to each. Let sit at room temperature for 2 days, then move to the fridge. It should be ready after 2 days; use within 3 weeks.
• 2 T canola oil: 6 cents
• 2 cups pickled cabbage, roughly chopped: 80 cents
• 1 1/4 cups cooked rice: 15 cents
• 4 large cloves garlic: 12 cents
• 3 small Thai chiles (more if you like it hot), de-seeded, de-veined and minced: 9 cents
• About 1 T fish sauce (or “not-fish sauce,” to make it vegan): 6 cents
TOTAL: $1.28/2 = 64 cents
Have your ingredients prepared and ready to go.
Heat a cast-iron skillet (12 inches is best, but 10 would work) over medium-high heat. Add the oil, when hot, add the minced garlic and chiles. Stir for a few seconds until just starting to turn color, then throw in the cabbage.
Cook for about 2 minutes, add the fish sauce, and serve over rice.