Ginger, garlic, and jalapeño perk up this quick and tasty dish
Need a quick weeknight dinner that you can assemble from what’s in your pantry and fridge? Here you go!
This dish combines green cabbage with cooked ham. Because we always seem to have extra cabbage around St. Patrick’s Day, and often have ham in the freezer.
Mix in some spicy Asian flavors, and it’s stir-fry for the win!
Recipe: Cabbage and Ham Stir-Fry
Ham may seem an odd choice for an Asian-style dish, but the flavor works well. (And pork is classic in many Asian dishes.)
You can serve this with cooked rice, if you wish – that’s a typical accompaniment to stir-fry. We often skip the rice, though, because we find that the stir-fry by itself is enough.
Prep time for this dish is 15 to 20 minutes. Cooking adds another 10 minutes or so (though if you’re serving rice, that takes a good 25 minutes to cook, and longer if you’re using brown rice, so figure accordingly).
This recipe yields 2 to 3 main-course servings. Leftovers keep for a couple of days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- 2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil (may substitute olive oil)
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced or cut into dice of ½ inch
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, deveined, and cut into thin slices of an inch or so
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or finely minced (or to taste)
- 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
- 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, cleaned and finely minced
- 1 to 2 tablespoons Chinese chili paste (to taste)
- ~1 pound green or Savoy cabbage (about ½ small head), thinly shredded
- ~8 ounces ham, cut into slices of about ¼ inch by 1 inch
- ¼ cup chicken stock (or to taste; we often increase to ½ cup)
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce (to taste)
- cooked rice for serving (optional)
- First, do all your prep work and assemble the ingredients. Once you start cooking this dish, things move quickly.
- Place a large frying pan on medium stovetop heat. When the pan is hot, add the cooking oil. When the oil is hot (about 15 seconds, it’ll shimmer), add the onion and red bell pepper. Season to taste with salt. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes – until the onion is just translucent.
- Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeño. Sauté for 1 minute. Add the chili paste, then stir quickly to combine. Add the green cabbage. Turn the heat up to medium-high, then sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the ham, chicken stock, Shaoxing rice wine, and soy sauce. Stir to combine. Cover the frying pan, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the cabbage is tender but still a bit crunchy (about 5 minutes).
- Taste, add salt or extra soy sauce if needed, and serve over cooked rice (or all by itself).
- You can prep all the ingredients several hours ahead of time if you wish. Just refrigerate them until you’re ready to cook.
- We always use a frying pan rather than a wok when we make stir-fry because we have an electric stove, and woks (even ones with flat bottoms) just aren’t as efficient. Most modern frying pans don’t do well on high stovetop heat (many stainless pans can warp if overheated, and you can ruin the finish on nonstick pans). So we typically use medium heat.
- Cast-iron pans can take the heat, though. So if you have one of those, go for it.
- Feel free to alter ingredients and quantities in this dish to suit your taste (or what’s available in your refrigerator or pantry). In particular, bok choy would make a wonderful substitute for ordinary green cabbage.
- We often add a tablespoon of fermented black beans to this dish (rinse them before using). We add them in Step 3 with the chili paste.
- Want an alternative sauce? Our friend David who writes the blog Cocoa and Lavender has a terrific recipe for a jalapeño and honey sauce (find it in his recipe for Stir-Fried Eggplant with Basil and Chiles). To adapt it to our recipe, just mix all the sauce ingredients together (jalapeño, honey, pinch of salt, rice vinegar, and soy sauce). Then add the whole mix in Step 4 instead of the liquids specified in this recipe (so omit the chicken stock, soy sauce, and Shaoxing rice wine). You can either keep or omit the jalapeño we call for in our recipe; if you keep it, you’ll have a pretty spicy dish.
- Shaoxing rice wine is traditional in Chinese cooking, but we usually substitute dry sherry. The two have similar flavor – and we typically have dry sherry on hand (we store it in the refrigerator to delay oxidation).
- Or you could skip the sherry/rice wine altogether. Just use a bit more chicken stock and soy sauce. Water would work too, although it won’t add flavor.
- Having said all that: This recipe doesn’t create much sauce. If you want a saucier dish, add a bit more chicken stock. For a thicker sauce, stir in a slurry of cornstarch and water right before serving (use a tablespoon or two).
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If you’re using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
- We often garnish each serving of this dish with a slice of jalapeño pepper.
“This stir-fry is pantry cooking at its finest,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Something we’re getting good at during COVID times.”
“Can’t wait to get our second vaccine shots,” I said. “We’ll be able to go to the grocery store again!”
“Yup, our shopping service has done a good job,” said Mrs K R. “But it will be a treat to select our own produce.”
“Just imagine seeing all those bins of fresh fruits and veggies!” I said.
Bet we’ll go bananas.
You may also enjoy reading about: