To ‘pao’ means to pickle, and cai is the Chinese word for vegetable. In the days before refrigeration, making pickled vegetables ensured that families had vegetables to eat during the long winters. The pickling liquids are the same as in the traditional recipes; we only played with the textures. This simple dish whets the appetite for the main meal ahead.
Chinese white cabbage40g (1⅓oz)
Preserved salted vegetable40g (1⅓oz)
Coriander leaves (cilantro) 40g (1⅓oz)
Roasted sesame seeds for garnish
Prepare pickled vegetable marinade a day in advance. In a pot, heat mineral water, then add salt, chillies, ginger and garlic. Bring mixture to the boil, then remove from heat and leave to cool to room temperature before adding wine.
Cut carrot and cabbage into evenly sized-strips. Place carrot and cabbage strips in two separate bowls and cover with cooled marinade. Leave overnight before serving.
Have a small square mould ready for use, if a fancier presentation is desired. Drain cabbage and carrot strips from marinade and season with chilli oil, pepper oil, salt and sugar. Set aside. Blanch coriander in hot water briefly. Drain and pat dry, then mince finely. Season with sesame oil and salt and set aside.
Pack cabbage, carrot, preserved vegetable and blanched coriander separately into the square mould and press down firmly. Unmould onto a serving plate. Alternatively, serve pickled vegetables in separate saucers. Garnish with roasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.