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.
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Happy St. Patrick’s Day John! I love the idea of a spicy Asian cabbage stir fry on St' Paddy's day. Now all I'll need is a green beer.
I actually once had a stir fry similar to this in the Philippines but instead of ham, it used Spam. It was very tasty indeed as I recall.
Ah, you guys are one jab ahead of us. We're lagging a bit behind here, but we should be done in a few weeks. I hope!
Hi Ron, we've been lucky to get our first jab -- our state has made a colossal mess out of vaccine distribution, and many people who should have received the vaccine haven't. I haven't had Spam in years! I actually have a Spam recipe or two that I may use one of these days. Happy St. Pat's! And thanks for the comment.
This is such a unique stir fry dish! Happy St. Patrick's Day!
You always manage to make everyday food so colourful, enjoyable, even the boring cabbage, and absolutely moreish, John.
Hi Amy, this is fun, isn't it? :-) Happy St. Patrick's Day, and thanks for the comment.
Hi Angie, we've really been getting into cabbage lately -- so much you can do with it! :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is a great-looking dish, John. It looks so clean. I like your idea of having it without rice.
Ham or some form of smoked/salted pork seems to exist in some form or other in Chinese cuisine. This looks like a good dish.
be safe... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
Hi Jeff, we like rice, but are often happy just to pile the "good" stuff on our plates. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mae, there's definitely dry-cured ham in Chinese cuisine -- similar to our country (aka Virginia) ham. You know, the kind where you have to scrub the mold off. :-) Don't know if they use the more typical wet-cure hams that are almost universal in US supermarkets these days (and which we used in this recipe). I should try this with a country ham -- sounds like a fun experiment. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This stir-fry looks great, John! We love cabbage and ham, so this is a hit! I used to cook with a wok but just use a skillet like you these days. Good with your vaccines! Bill got his way back when and I just got my first one Monday. Pritzker has made a mess of it here. I know people with chronic conditions who should've gotten their shots first. That's life in Illinois, esp here close to Chicago! 😉 Take care
Hi Pam, congrats on getting your first shots! I think it's a mess in a lot of places -- certainly is here. :-( Thanks for the comment.
Looks like a delicious side dish. Great textures and flavors.
You are speaking my food love language with the heat and one pan cooking!
Hi Pam, it's wonderful. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Anne, heat is good, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Ham or even Char sui seems like the perfect savory fit for this recipe and a great way to use up that left over Easter Ham! Quick and easy- we are all about that!
Hi Bobbi, Char sui is an excellent idea! Gotta try that. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is my kind of meal. I do have a question. You mention "Chinese Chili Sauce". There are many types from what I can find. Do you have a recommendation? I'm a sauce freak so finding a new sauce for stir fries is exciting. :)
Hi MJ, probably the one we buy most often has a green lid and a chicken on the label and is distributed by Huy Fong Foods. (It's actually a chile garlic sauce.) We like the Lee Kum Kee brand a lot, too. But we'll happily buy new ones just to see what they're like. We like to experiment. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Lovely. I really like the ham addition. Great elements in this stir fry. I buy the same chile garlic sauce. I use a LOT of it. It’s just so good.
Hi Mimi, the ham work really well with all the flavors in this. And we use a lot of chile garlic sauce too! Thanks for the comment.
Coming from NE Europe cabbage and ham together cooked long and slow constituted real soul food. Your fresh stir-fry with its nod towards the East does lie in a different world ! Colourful and enticing . . . but I also would rather tread the char siu trail suggested by Bobbi :) !
Hi Eha, cabbage and ham just work. The char siu Bobbi suggested is really a great idea, isn't it? Thanks for the ocmment.
how long has it been since you went shopping? we have been soooo lucky here. we were in lockdown for a few weeks way back in 2020, then we had a 3 day lockdown earlier this year but apart from that ... we are all just careful, and do the sanitiser and distancing thing. Cabbage is a good thing. gotta love a brassica:)
Hi Sherry, it's been about a year since we went to a supermarket. The shopping service we use is pretty good and quite reasonably priced, so in some ways there hasn't been that much incentive to go shopping ourselves. Still, we wanna. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Oh this is so perfect for Saint Patrick's Day. Looks delicious.
Hi Pat and Dahn, isn't this a fun dish? Really good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love easy, flavorful meals like this! It would be wonderful with leftover corned beef, too.
What a great idea. Love all of the Asian seasonings in this one. Thanks John.
Hi Liz, I'll bet corned beef would work pretty well! Great idea. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lea Ann, we like Asian seasonings, a lot, and are always looking for new recipes for them. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I've never used cabbage in a stir-fry before. Looks like I'll have to 'jump on the band wagon' now and start loading up on the stuff. During Covid, I always felt comfortable shopping at supermarkets, so I never did use a shopping service- for me, shopping for food is part of the enjoyment of cooking it!
Hi Fran, the cabbage bandwagon needs you. :-) Thanks for comment.
It looks pretty god, I mean honestly I never thought about combining these two ingredients in such way, but it's probably quite flavoursome :)
Hi FT, pretty unusual combo, and really good flavor. Really good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Sautéed Cabbage (sometimes with an addition of smoky sausage) was one of staples in my childhood. I mean it's easy to make, it's filling (yet not too heavy), with a lovely flavour/texture profile, and cheap - what not to love about it, right? I will need to make this happen in my life soon!
Hi Ben, cabbage and sausages is wonderful stuff! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Almost like fried rice except with cabbage. Sounds so good John! And that second vaccine? Just 10 more days and it's ours. I can't wait!
At first glance, I didn’t see this as an Asian dish — then read the ingredients. Great flavors in this! I need to get to the international grocery store soon - so many things to get — am out if shaoxing rice wine and decent soy sauce! Thanks, John!
Hi Abbe, next week for the second one for me! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi David, we usually use sherry instead of rice wine these days -- one less bottle in the refrigerator. And we sometimes use sherry in cocktails. :-) Thanks for the comment.
The news of your first shot makes this dish look the light at the end of the tunnel. I think you'll be pleased to look back on all these posts one day and see how you managed to eat well and stay sane through all this madness. Congrats. GREG
Hi Greg, I'm not exactly sure you could describe us as "sane." :-) It's been quite a year, hasn't it? Thanks for the comment.
What a nice after-St. Patrick's Day way to use up leftover cabbage, and to give taste buds a new treat.
Hi Carolyn, we're always look for new taste treats :-) Thanks for the comment.
Simple and yummy!
Hi Natalia, isn't this nice? We love simple. And yummy. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I buy the Huy Fong Foods Sriracha and see that I can also get the chile garlic sauce through Amazon. Thanks!
Hi MJ, we buy a LOT of food stuff from Amazon, particularly these days when visiting grocery stores is problematic. Plus Amazon carries almost anything that is packaged (although sometimes at ridiculously high prices).
Good to hear you have had your first vaccine jab over there.You just won't want to stay home when you are fully vaccinated. We're not expecting ours until April. I'm up at the supermarket at least 3 times a week, not huge shops though.This is such a tasty dish, I love the combo of cabbage and ham or bacon in so many ways. Thanks also for the heads up on the eggplant dish of Cocoa and Lavender. I have eggplants just about ready to harvest.Take care and thanks for this terrific recipe.
Hi Pauline, I my second jab this week. Excited!:-) I think Australia has done a much better job than the US at managing COVID -- seems to be much more contained there. Thanks for the comment.
I love recipes that combine the greens and proteins so beautifully :)
Hi Taruna, we love those kind of recipes too! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Your stir fry is so tasty good with that fresh ginger and garlic. What a totally satisfying dish using fun and unexpected ingredients!
Hi Heidi, this is rather a fun combo of flavors, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi R, yup. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I am loving the Asian infused flavours on this one, definitely the best of both worlds. Its nice and simple too
Hi Raymund, it is rather the best of both worlds, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
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