A home remedy: Spicy Stir-fried Cabbage

If you’ve been following me on Twitter recently, you’ll know that I’ve been sick for the past couple days. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m sick quite often. And if you know me in real life, well then, you’ve probably said to me at some point or another Good grief Ele, do you have to catch every little bug that goes around?

Its true, I dont have the best immune system around. Colds, sinus infections, stomach bugs- they all seem to come my way. My sister likes to tease me, saying that if Id been born in an earlier, less medically advanced time, Id surely have been one of the unlucky ones who were dead before their 18th birthday. (To which the romantic literary geek in me normally replies that I at least hope the cause would have been something exotic like The Consumption or Scarlet Fever.)

These days Im pretty good at getting over my frequent bouts of illness quickly, or at least lessening the effects of them. At the first sign of sniffles or a sore throat, I bombard my body with a plethora of natural supplements, liquids a-plenty and remedies hailing from old wives tales and newly-released studies alike. These range from tablets of echinacea and vitamin C to recipes for soothing drinks (this one is a favourite) and manuka honey by the spoonful.

But what to eat? Sure, my appetite may not be 100% when Im ill, but I still need some sustenance. Vegetables usually seem like a good idea, and the idea of something spicy is appealing too, especially when Ive got a cold. One of my favourite sick-day meals is also one of the simplest recipes in my repertoire, discovered via the ever-inspiring Orangette. With just four ingredients (three if you discount the cooking oil), this stir-fry of Savoy cabbage, chili sauce, and soy sauce is tasty and restorative.

This is a very basic recipe, but don’t be tempted to add seasoning to it. It’s not necessary here; the chili paste is your pepper and the soy sauce your salt. If you can get proper Indonesian sambal oelek then do so, because it’s wonderful here. Otherwise, a basic chili paste will work, and one containing garlic as well can be particularly nice. If you’re making this in full health and don’t mind the extra effort, it goes well with a poached egg and toast.

But really, don’t think about this dish too much. After all, when I’m sick I’d rather be sitting on the couch watching a movie than fretting about in the kitchen. Which, if you’ll excuse me, is exactly what I’m off to do.


Spicy Stir-fried Cabbage

adapted from Orangette


serves 1-2, depending on what else you serve

  • 1/2 head Savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 1-2 Tbs. neutral oil
  • 1 tsp. sambal oelek (or other very spicy chili paste) soy sauce, to taste

  1. Rinse the cabbage shreds well in a large colander and let drip dry in the sink for a while. Heat the oil in a large, nonstick frying pan or wok (one that owns a lid!) until very hot.
  2. Add the cabbage to the pan and cover tightly; allow to cook for 2-3 minutes on high heat without touching it. The greens on the bottom should be getting some nice colour, and the ones on top will be steaming slightly, due to the residual rinsing water on the cabbage. After 2-3 minutes, toss or stir well and replace the lid, cooking for another 2-3 minutes. Repeat until all the cabbage is tender, and much of it golden-brown in colour.
  3. Remove the lid and turn the heat down to medium. Add the sambal oelek, stir well and continue cooking for another minute or two. Remove from the heat, add in a drizzle (or glug) of soy sauce, stir well and serve immediately.
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