Quick and spicy Chinese cabbage tsukemono or pickle (Hakusai no sokusekizuke)
This has to be one of the easiest and tastiest ways of preparing Chinese or napa cabbage (hakusai) that I know of. All you taste is the fresh essence of the cabbage, with the heat of the red pepper and the slight twist of the orange zest.
Did I say easy? Wash and chop up the leaves, mix together the flavoring ingredients, dump all in a plastic bag, shake then massage. That’s it. It’s ready to eat right away, though the flavors to meld a bit better if you can manage to keep it in the fridge for at least an hour before eating.
I’ve used ingredients that anyone should have, even if you aren’t stocked up on typical Japanese ingredients. Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes up or down to your taste.
Quick Chinese cabbage pickles (Hakusai no sokusekizuke)
- About 2 lb / 1 kg (a small whole head or half of a large head) fresh Chinese (napa) cabbage (about 6 cups cut up)
- 1/2 tsp vegetable stock granules (or about 1/2 a Knorr-sized stock cube)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. orange zest in thin strips
- Optional: 1 tsp. lemon juice
- Optional: 1 tsp. dark sesame oil
Equipment needed: a large plastic zip bag
Wash the cabbage leaves, and discard any discolored parts. Dry by spinning in a salad spinner or in several layers of paper towels. Chop up roughly.
Mix together all the dry ingredients and orange zest in a bowl. If you’re using a stock cube, crumble it up finely.
Put the cabbage in the plastic bag, and the dry ingredients + orange zest. Close the bag with plenty of air in it (so it’s like a balloon) and shake all around until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Open the bag, expel as much air as you can, and close again. Massage and toss the bag around, bruising the cabbage. Quite a lot of moisture will come out of the cabbage and melt the salt etc. Try not to burst the bag with over-enthusiastic kneading.
You can eat this right away, or leave in the refrigerator in the bag for about an hour (you can do it over night too).
To serve, drain off the excess moisture (which is delicious, but rather salty…though some people like to drink it off!). Drizzle with the optional lemon juice or sesame oil. Serve with any Japanese style meal. Makes a great bento box item.