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Our roasted napa cabbage gets its flavor from Chinese ingredients including Sichuan peppercorns. It’s a quick and fun side dish that packs punch.
A note on nomenclature before we dig in. This vegetable goes by many names: napa cabbage, Chinese cabbage, wombok, Chinese leaf, and of course many terms not in the English language. We will be referring to this dish as roasted napa cabbage, but feel free to call it whatever you want.
What to do with napa cabbage?
This is a question we recently asked ourselves. We’ve been eating a lot of coleslaw and sautéed red cabbage these days, so we wanted to try something different with a recently procured head. Napa cabbage is leafier and more delicate than its standard red and green cousins. So we wanted something quick that didn’t break it down too much.
We decided to roast it. This isn’t surprising, since roasting is our preferred cooking method for pretty much all vegetables. But it’s just so easy and results in so much flavor, we stand by it as a go-to method.
When brainstorming this recipe, we immediately thought of our Chinese ingredients. We wanted to give it good flavor while keeping it fast, easy and healthy. We think our roasted napa cabbage accomplished everything we set out to do.
As we mentioned, we mainly stuck to Chinese ingredients for this recipe.
After the cabbage, the main ingredient is Sichuan peppercorns. We grind ours right before sprinkling it over the cabbage so all of its goodness gets into the dish.
Sichuan peppercorns are tingly and lemony. We can’t get enough of the flavors and sensations they impart. We recently bought a mortar and pestle for the sole purpose of grinding Sichuan peppercorns so we could add them to more dishes (although we’re sure we’ll use it to grind other whole spices soon too).
We wanted a bit of heat too, so we used red chili flake. We have an enormous 1 kg bag of Korean red chili flake, so that’s what we used. But if you have Chinese chili flake, by all means use that.
The other flavors are dark soy sauce and black vinegar. We use just enough to bump up the salt and umami, but not enough to overwhelm the cabbage (we did that on our first attempt and learned the hard way).
This is an easy recipe. There are two stages to cooking the cabbage – but the whole thing only takes 15 minutes.
First, oil the cabbage and add the salt and dried peppercorns and chili flake. If you have a convection setting on your oven, you’re going to want to use it. We cook the cabbage in the top part of the oven on convection for the first 10 minutes, and it gives the cabbage a good char.
After the cabbage cooks for 10 minutes, remove it and spoon the soy sauce/vinegar mixture on top (and in between the leaves). Turn the convection setting off, turn the heat down, and put it back in the oven for 5 minutes. The liquid will help the thicker parts of the cabbage cook through.
We like to top the roasted napa cabbage with toasted sesame seeds. If you don’t have them on hand, you can cook them in a dry pan while the cabbage is in the oven. It only takes a few minutes.
Enjoy alongside a simple piece of grilled chicken or pork or on its own as a satisfying snack.
- 1 head napa cabbage
- 1 1/2 tsp flavorless cooking oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp red chili flake (Chinese or Korean preferred)
- 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, ground
- 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp black vinegar
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
- Preheat the oven to 400°F on convection. (See notes for cooking instructions if you don't have a convection oven.)
- Slice the cabbage lengthwise in half. Wash the outside and inside and pat dry with a towel. Slice each half lengthwise once more so you have 4 pieces. Leave the core intact.
- Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with cooking spray or oiling it. Place the cabbage leaves side up on the baking sheet.
- Mix the oil with the salt in a small bowl. Brush the mixture onto each cabbage quarter. Sprinkle each cabbage quarter with an equal amount of red chili flake and ground Sichuan peppercorns.
- Put the cabbage in the top half of the oven. Roast for 10 minutes.
- Remove the cabbage and spoon an equal amount of the soy sauce/vinegar mixture onto each cabbage quarter. Turn oven heat down to 375°F and turn it to the regular bake setting. Cook for another 5 minutes.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before serving.
- Napa cabbage also goes by Chinese cabbage in some countries.
- If your oven doesn't have a convection setting, adjust the cooking method by roasting the cabbage for 12 minutes, and then (after saucing it) broiling it for 2 minutes.
- We cook the cabbage quarters with their cores intact so they stay together nicely. But you probably don't want to eat the very end.