On the Side

34 Comments

On the Side is a cookbook I had no business purchasing. It’s all about side dishes, and I’m already the biggest proponent of side dishes. My favorite part of Thanksgiving are the sides. I have some turkey, but I love the sweet-tart cabbage, the garlicky sweet potato mash, and the crispy roasted Brussels sprouts.

So you don’t have to convince me that sides are important, but I bought it because I agree with the author, London-based Ed Smith.

From the author: “This book is for anyone who already realizes that the best bits of a Sunday roast are the trimmings. And for everyone else too – because you’ll see the light soon.”

Mr. Smith originally worked as a corporate lawyer, while also keeping a blog, called Rocket and Squash, to which I now subscribe. Eventually he became a chef, and worked in the food industry.

During this time he’s also been an observer, a student of food – “I’ve watched trends arrive, and some of them crash and burn; I’ve seen a million and one ways with chicken, hundreds of crumbles and nearly as many chocolate fondants. And yet, in all this time, barely a handful of side dishes. Which is madness.”


The dish I chose to make from the book is Chinese cabbage with black vinegar, which is called Chinkiang vinegar. It was an opportunity to try it, as well as Sichuan chile flakes, called Gochujaru.

Chinese Cabbage with Black Vinegar

1 Chinese cabbage
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar
2 teaspoons golden caster sugar
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
4 cm fresh ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks
2 teaspoons dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon lightly crushed Sichuan peppercorns

Prepare all the ingredients first, as the cooking process is quick. Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise, then each of those halves in two again. Cut out the core from the base of each quarter, then roughly chop the lengths into 5 or 6 pieces widthways.

Mix the soy sauce, vinegar and caster sugar together in a bowl and set aside. I can see why sugar is an ingredient. Black vinegar has a delightfully deep earthy flavor.

I divided the cabbage into two bowls – one with pieces from the root end, the other bowl with the thinner pieces.

Place a large wok over a very high heat, add the oil and allow it to heat almost until it smokes.

Drop the ginger onto the hot oil and let this soften for 30 seconds before adding the chili flakes and peppercorns, then pretty much immediately start to add the pieces of cabbage cut from the root end.

Stir fry for 30 seconds, before adding the softer top part of the cabbage. Cook for 45 seconds more, stirring occasionally, before pushing the cabbage to one side and pouring the soy sauce mixture in.

Quickly move the cabbage around for 20-30 seconds, then remove from the heat so that the cabbage takes on the flavors of vinegar and soy but retains its bite.

Serve immediately.


I served the cabbage alongside noodles topped with sesame seeds.

This cabbage is fabulous. The only different thing I would do is to use a grinder on the peppercorns.

The cabbage would be a great side to meatballs, tofu, shrimp, or beef. The next day I cooked a filet of salmon and it was a wonderful meal!

 

34 thoughts on “On the Side

    • Definitely! I’m just not a fan of a heavy-meat meal. I was just in Utah for a week and the heaviest meat I had was trout !

  1. Big believer in meat being a tiny portion of the meal. This cabbage dish looks really good and I”m anxious to try it! Thanks for such detailed step by step photos and instruction.

    • You’re so welcome Elena! I’m mostly meatless myself, but don’t believe in rules. In fact, I just made a lamb chop for lunch! Mostly because I was so excited that I saw it at our local grocery store!

  2. My mouth is watering! I can’t wait to try this, I’ve never tried black vinegar, but have all the other ingredients! Thanks for the recipe!

  3. This looks delicious! Love cabbage (as does hubby) so I’m pretty confident we’d enjoy this one! Big fan of vinegar too…though, I haven’t tried black vinegar, but would love to try. Will have to look for next time I’m at the grocery :)

    • It was good. It was surprisingly mild, so you could substitute but it’s always fun to try a new food, isn’t it?!!

  4. I hear ya on the side dishes, Mimi! I still look forward to my turkey at Thanksgiving, but I always go back for more of the sides. Mmmm…not long now! :-) The cabbage dish you made here sounds delicious, and I appreciate you sharing this fun new (to me) cookbook, too!

    • Well that’s good, too! I usually make red cabbage with plum jelly of some sort and some times a few dried cranberries for the holidays, but that’s it!

  5. I actually have some Chinkiang vinegar in my pantry (for Hot and Sour Soup — it gives this soup its characteristic flavor). So I’m good to go for this recipe! And it’s a terrific looking dish — so full of flavor. I totally agree about the sides — my favorite part of most meals. Although in restaurants I tend to like the starters the most — will frequently have a couple of those, and skip the mains entirely (for some reason restaurant starters almost always have better flavor than many of the mains). Anyway, good post — thanks.

    • That’s exactly what I do! 2 appetizers/starters/first courses. Also because of the portion of the meat entreé – not that I can’t manage eating it, but because I don’t want to!

  6. I just clicked on your link to rocketandsquash.com and immediately saw a “wild mushroom kiev and slow tomatoes” recipe which I at once began devouring with my eyes! Wow! Thanks, I’ll be investigating that site more. And this cabbage dish looks amazing. As a big fan of side dishes and in particular cabbage (there’s plenty of it in the fields here in Scotland – being dug up soon!) it’s right up my street!

  7. What an unusual side, but boy does it look like I can dig into that on my own! I’ve never heard of the author before, but he sure knows his stuff eh? The black vinegar sounds quite interesting.

    • The chef’s bio is fascinating. He seems to know stuff! The black vinegar is quite unique. I’m sure it could be substituted in this recipe, but I wouldn’t. It’s worth trying.

  8. A great wok fry and your tutorial is very good. I think Mr. Ed would be very proud that he inspired you. And as for sides, I say through away the turkey at Thanksgiving and give me the sides.

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