October 20, 2014

Braised Cabbage w/ Dried Shrimp & Mushroom 白菜燜香菇蝦米

braised, cabbage, chinese, dried shrimp, mushroom, napa cabbage, recipe, 燜, 白菜, 蝦米, 香菇,
By Published: 2014-10-20
Ummm...yum, yum, ummmm!  This is one of the best, most satisfying Chinese vegetable dishes to cook and eat on chilly wind swept autumn's day.  Tasty, gorgeously saucy, simple yet richly layered with flavors, tenderly melting in your mouth and warming to the depths of your toes!  Best of all the star of the show, the humble looking Napa Cabbage, is very cheap.  

One finds mounds of this veg stacked up in tall piles at the wet market, although here in Hong Kong it is usually neglected for other more favored southern vegetables such as the Choi Sum 菜心 or Gai Lan 芥蘭.  But don't miss out, pick up a handsome head of cabbage and make this simple classic Northern Chinese comfort dish, Braised Cabbage with Dried Shrimp and Mushroom, or 白菜燉香菇蝦米, perfect for these cool autumn days!

braised, cabbage, chinese, dried shrimp, mushroom, napa cabbage, recipe, 燜, 白菜, 蝦米, 香菇,

The northern Chinese wax lyrical about this Napa Cabbage, or 大白菜.  It is the vegetable closest to their heart and hearth, a love tie forged through many centuries of long, long cold winters and endless delicious warming dishes that featured this humble cabbage.  

In those long ago days before the refrigerator, vegetables were scarce to be had in the winters except for the cabbage, which stood up well to long storage in the cold.  So these cabbages would be literally hoarded, bought in bulk just before the onslaught of bitter cold winters, and stored in monster piles in gardens, to be brought in one by one and braised, stir fried, steamed into heart (and toe!) warming dinners.

Though I did not grow up knowing such cold winters, I did nonetheless grow up eating the napa cabbage.  Every single day of my childhood and hated loved it.  Well, love hated it.  And pure love it now that I don't have to eat it every single day. (Yes,  I'm talking to you dear Grandma.)  

There is no other vegetable, to me at least, as tender and lovingly tasty as the cabbage. (Well nowadays anyways.) But, hey, if you grew up on this veg, you will know exactly what I mean when I say that!  And then how shocked I was coming to Hong Kong and discovering that no restaurants served napa cabbage except Shanghai restaurants!  To be honest it took me a long time to get used to the local vegetables like Choi Sum. (For a deliciously gentle blanched Choi Sum see our recipe!)

braised, cabbage, chinese, dried shrimp, mushroom, napa cabbage, recipe, 燜, 白菜, 蝦米, 香菇,

This braised cabbage dish is super duper easy to make as well as being easy on your wallet!  All you need is that head of cabbage and some dried shrimp and mushrooms.  Dried Shrimps, or 蝦米, and Dried Mushrooms, or 香菇, are some of those things that you just have to have a supply of in your Chinese pantry.  It is literally just dried small shrimps and dried shitake mushrooms and they can be used to flavor all kinds of dishes.  
Why not use fresh shrimp and mushrooms, you might be asking?  Well, the Chinese figured out long ago that drying food actually intensifies, concentrates a food's flavor.  It becomes something else, a category of its own.  So Dried Shrimp and Dried Mushrooms are the same yet quite different from the fresh stuff and each has evolved its own extensive repertoire in the Chinese menu.  For this simple braised vegetable dish they add a tasty and exciting layering of flavor that perfectly complements the sweet and tender cabbage.

braised, cabbage, chinese, dried shrimp, mushroom, napa cabbage, recipe, 燜, 白菜, 蝦米, 香菇,
Braised Cabbage with Dried Shrimp and Mushroom 白菜燉香菇蝦米
(Prep time: 5 mins  Cook time: 15 mins)



Soak mushrooms, stems down, in 1 1/2 to 2 cups of room temperature water to cover a few hours before you want to cook.  When softened enough to slice, squeeze water out and cut off the stem and discard.  Reserve mushroom soaking water.  Slice the mushroom cap into 1/8" slices.
Cut off the bottom 1/4" of cabbage and discard.  Peel off the leaves of the cabbage and wash well.  Stack up a couple of leaves at a time and slice into 1" segments.

Heat wok over medium high heat.  When wok is hot add 1 tbsp oil and add the dried shrimps and mushrooms.  Stir a few times until fragrance rises.  Add additional 2 tbsp oil and add in the cabbage, being careful of oil splatters.  Add salt and then stir fry for 2 minutes until the cabbage is mostly wilted.  

Add in reserved mushroom water, soy sauce, sugar, rice wine and oyster sauce.  Cover, turn heat to medium low and let simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the cabbage is meltingly soft.  

Mix potato starch with 1 tbsp water, give it a stir before pouring into the wok while stirring constantly.  When sauce becomes thick and glossy turn off heat and serve hot.



  1. Hi! Question: Is it necessary to soak the dried shrimp? I'd like to try this recipe. Thanks!

    1. Hi Sheryl - We don't soak the dried shrimp for this particular dish because it is a braise but you are correct in thinking it is usually soaked. The mushroom is soaked because it needs to be sliced. Just remember be careful when stir frying shrimp, don't stir too long, just until the fragrance is released. ~ellen