Braised cabbage and mushrooms (doong qwoo mun wong gna bock)

Napa cabbage, wong gna bock, varies in its water content depending on how old it is. Younger cabbage has more water and, therefore, may not need the addition of any liquid as it cooks. Older cabbage is drier and is sweeter in flavor but will need the addition of broth to prevent it from sticking in the wok. Mama recalls that her family would buy ten to twelve heads of cabbage at a time in Shanghai and hang them in their kitchen to allow them to wilt and dry slightly over one to two weeks, to obtain this sweeter flavor. Their household had at least nine people to feed, so it was easy to use up that amount of cabbage in no time.

12 Chinese dried mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon sugar
8 large leaves Napa cabbage, about 1 pound
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 slices ginger
3/4 cup Homemade Chicken Broth
2 tablespoons oyster flavored sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon thin soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil

In a bowl, soak the dried mushrooms and sugar in 3/4 cup cold water for 30 minutes, or until softened. Drain and squeeze dry, reserving soaking liquid. Cut off and discard stems and halve the caps. Wash the cabbage leaves in several changes of cold water and drain thoroughly in a colander until dry to the touch. Trim 1/4 inch from stem end of the cabbage leaves and discard. Stack 2 to 3 cabbage leaves at a time and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide shreds.

Heat a small saucepan over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add 1 teaspoon of oil and 1 slice of ginger, and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add reconstituted mushroom caps and stir-fry 1 minute. Add the reserved mushroom liquid and 1/2 cup chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 25 minutes. Check the saucepan occasionally to make sure there is just enough liquid for the mushrooms to simmer. Stir in oyster sauce.

Meanwhile, heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and ginger slice, and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add the cabbage and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, or until vegetable is slightly limp. Stir in the salt, remaining 1/4 cup chicken broth, soy sauce, and sesame oil and reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 5 minutes.

Transfer the cabbage to a platter with pan juices. Pour the mushrooms over the center of the cabbage and serve immediately.

Serves 4 as part of a multicourse meal.

Taken from Grace Young’s book “The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen” with permission. © Grace Young. Published by Simon & Schuster, Inc. ISBN 0-684-84739-6.