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Sitr-Fried Cabbage with Dried Chiles and Ginger

This is from a beautiful cookbook by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, Hot Sour Salty Sweet. The pictures alone make the book worth having. It is also the story of a family's journey down the Mekong River, giving you a glimpse into the different cultures and syles of cuisine found in all of the little regions along the way. Anything I've made from it has been exceptional.

ingredients:

1 small savoy or green cabbage (about 1 pound)

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

1 ounce of pork butt, with its fat, sliced, or 2 slices of bacon, cut into 1-inch lengths

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 Thai dried chiles (little red Christmas light looking peppers but i'm sure you could use crushed red pepper flakes in a pinch)

Three 1/4 inch slices ginger

1 star anise, broken in two (some chopped fennel would probably add the same flavor)

1 teaspoon of salt

2 teaspoons soy sauce

Thinly slice the cabbage, then coarsely chop. Or grate it on a coarse grater. Discard any tough stems. You should have about 4 cups of cabbage. Set aside.

Heat a large wok over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl it around to coat the wok. Toss in the pork slices or bacon and garlic. Lower the heat to medium, and stir-fry for about 2 minutes, until the garlic begins to change color and the pork fat begins to melt. (It is important that the wok not be over the highest heat, so that the pork fat can melt gradually without the meat scorching.) Add the dried chiles, ginger, and star anise and continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes longer. Raise the heat to high, toss in the cabbage, and stir-fry for about 1 minute, pressing the cabbage against the sides of the wok.  Add the salt and continue to stir-fry until the cabbage wilts and softens, about 5 minutes.  Add the soy sauce and then stir-fry for another minute or so, again pressing the cabbage firmly against the hot sides of the wok, until the cabbage is quite soft and wilted, with the occasional very slight bit of crunch. Taste for seasoning and adjust if you wish.

Note: The ginger, chiles, and anise are there to flavor the oil, not to be eaten.

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