Here is a Western adaptation of a traditional Chinese dish. It typifies the ways in which Chinese immigrants make use of local ingredients and techniques to prepare familiar foods in new ways. In China, this dish is normally braised for a long time in chicken stock; then chicken fat is added to the sauce so it’s slightly rich. In the West, where everyone is always in a hurry, Chinese cooks cut the cooking time and substitute a touch of cream to give the sauce a unique milky texture.
Dairy foods are extremely rare in China, except among certain minority groups in northern and southwestern China. But, growing up in America, I often drank a glass of milk with my meals. The Chinese are a very adaptable people, especially in culinary matters. This recipe is evidence of that.
Cut the cabbage into 5 cm (
Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, toss in the garlic and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Chuck in the cabbage and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Next pour in the stock and cream and add the ham, salt and pepper. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until the cabbage is very tender. Remove the cabbage with a slotted spoon.
Pour in the cornflour mixture and continue cooking, stirring, until the sauce is thick. Arrange the cabbage on a platter, pour the sauce over and serve at once.
© 1998 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.