This is a popular vegetable starter in many Chinese restaurants in the UK, where it is known as ‘Fried Seaweed’. In northern China, as I understand, there is a true seaweed dish to be had (which I have never eaten), but I should be very much surprised if it is available in Britain. In my experience, the ‘seaweed’ is shredded, dried and deep-fried fresh Chinese greens. The taste is fine but I prefer the version offered here, from the Sichuan Garden restaurant in Hong Kong. It uses a tinned preserved cabbage called ‘red-in-snow’ which is a pickled vegetable, traditional among the people of Chekiang and Kiangsu in northern China. It looks like turnip tops and both leaves and stalks are preserved. In the late winter or early spring, the red roots of the plant are often visible through the snow, hence its name. If you cannot find it, use Chinese green leaves, finely shredded and thoroughly dried in the oven. The key to the success of this dish is to be sure that the red-in-snow cabbage is thoroughly dried and the oil quite hot. Serve the dish at once.
Rinse the cabbage in several changes of cold water. Place on a linen tea towel and squeeze out all the excess liquid.
Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer or wok until it almost smokes. Deep-fry half of the cabbage for about 3 minutes or until crispy, then drain on kitchen paper. Repeat the process with the remaining cabbage. Mix the walnuts with the cabbage and serve at once.
© 1995 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.