A Winning Combination: Cabbage and Pork
Does anything compare to the hearty flavors of cinnamon, anise, and star anise blazing in a comforting pot of cabbage and pork? This dish – often served in Chinese and Taiwanese homes – is a crowd-pleaser not only because it conjures up a sense of nostalgia, but also because of its tasty ingredients and tantalizing aromas.
Its roots are in its ingredients. You will typically see a blend of ingredients which includes pork in the form of minced pork or pork belly, as well as cabbage, Chinese cooking wine, fried garlic, shallot, ginger, Chinese five-spice powder, sugar, and various spices.
The secret to this dish’s flavorful punch comes from the combination of spices, none more potent than Chinese five-spice powder. This heady mix of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, and fennel adds a sweet-savory flavor that transports you to another world.
Cooking the dish is simple, but it may take a little practice to get the perfect consistency. The pork needs to be cooked down enough so that it melds with the cabbage, while not becoming too soft.
Preparing the dish begins with heating oil in a wok or large pan, adding the garlic, shallot, ginger, and Chinese wine to the pan. Next, the pork is browned and cooked until it is just tender, and then seasoned with the spices. The cabbage is added and cooked until it softens, with a tablespoon of sugar at the end to help bring out the flavors. Finally, the pork is returned to the pot and cooked for a few more minutes.
This dish is a hearty combination of sweet and savory flavors, combined with the comforting feeling you get from a warm meal. The liquid produced from cooking down the meat, cabbage, and Chinese wine results in a sort of broth which ties the dish together. The final result is a luscious, unbelievably tasty meal perfect for entertaining or cozy nights at home.
Cabbage and pork is a versatile dish, and can be enhanced with other ingredients like shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, sesame oil, and chili flakes. And these flavors and aromas blend beautifully with a steaming bowl of rice.
Whether at a family get-together or as part of a full-on feast, cabbage and pork is definitely a dish to savor.
– 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
– 2 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1 shallot, sliced
– 1 teaspoon ginger, chopped
– 2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine
– 500g (2 cups) minced pork or pork belly
– 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
– 1 teaspoon sugar
– 2 cups (about 500g) cabbage, finely sliced
1. Heat the oil in a wok or large pan over medium-high heat.
2. Add the garlic, shallot, ginger, and Chinese cooking wine, and cook until fragrant, about 1–2 minutes.
3. Add the pork, and cook until just tender, about 3–4 minutes.
4. Season with the Chinese five-spice powder and sugar, and then add the cabbage.
5. Cook until the cabbage is softened, about 5–7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Add the pork back to the pan and let the flavors meld for a few more minutes.
7. Serve hot with steamed rice.