the taste space

Chinese Sweet and Sour Cabbage With Tofu

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on August 17, 2011


Sometimes I wonder about recipes involving cabbage. A small head of cabbage, they say. Sometimes they specify how much they mean: 1lb.

Do heads of cabbage even come that small?

I remember Rob coming home with a monster cabbage and it tipped the scales at 5lb.  Our last cabbage, which was the smallest in the bunch was 3lb.  This leaves us with lots of cabbage! Thankfully it keeps fairly well and still as tasty as leftovers.

As a neutral palate, cabbage can go into a typical or non-traditional slaw, turn uber sweet after a long braise, bulk up a porridge, add crunch to a salad, or turn Mexican with the right ingredients.

This time, I wanted to go Asian. China, of all places, which may not seem to have many healthy options (especially when you head out to a resto). But at home, of course, there are healthy options. You don’t need to add any cornstarch or MSG. It can be flavourful!


This sweet and sour cabbage dish was adapted from the New York Times. It was light and refreshing, while being nicely spiced with simple ingredients like soy sauce, ginger, green onions and ginger. The toasted sesame seeds are mandatory in my opinion to elevate the dish from bland to grand. I usually press my tofu, but this time I didn’t (it didn’t mention it in the original recipe) and the tofu kind of fell apart because it was quite soft (maybe it was the new kind of tofu I used as well? it didn’t seem to be particularly extra firm). It still tasted delicious but next time, I won’t omit that crucial step.


This is my submission to E.A.T. World for China, to AWED for China, and to this month’s Simple and in Season and to Ricki’s Summer Wellness Weekends.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage With Tofu

400g extra-firm tofu, rinsed and pressed, then cut into 1/2 cm x 1/2 cm x 2 cm chunks
2 tbsp coconut oil, divided
1 tbsp soy sauce (or more to taste)
1 small onion, sliced
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, white and dark green parts separated  (100g)
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp Aleppo chili flakes, or more to taste
1 medium cabbage, quartered, cored, and sliced crosswise (640g prepped)
3 tbsp seasoned rice wine vinegar (or 3 tbsp rice vinegar plus 1 tbsp agave nectar)
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

1. Blot the tofu dry with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet or a wok over medium-high heat and when it is rippling, add the tofu. Cook, tossing in the pan or turning over with tongs, for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly colored. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce, toss together for about 30 seconds, and remove from the heat. Set aside in a bowl.

2. Heat the remaining oil in the pan over medium-high heat and add the onion. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes, until crisp-tender, and add the white part of the scallions, the garlic, and ginger. Stir together for about 30 seconds, until fragrant but not colored. Add the chili flakes, stir in the cabbage and stir-fry until the cabbage begins to wilt, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of the remaining scallion greens. Stir in the vinegar (and sugar if using) and continue to cook, stirring, until the cabbage is crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Return the tofu to the pan and stir together. Add more soy sauce to taste (I added another 1/2 tbsp) and stir together. Sprinkle on the scallion greens and sesame seeds and remove from the heat. Serve over grains or noodles.

Serves 4.

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13 Responses

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  1. sprint2thetable said, on August 17, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    For whatever reason I never cook with cabbage. This looks like a good place to start! Love that you used coconut oil and sesame seeds.

  2. Ricki said, on August 17, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    Looks like a great dish (as always)! I love cabbage, sweet and sour or otherwise. I’m not sure if this is a re-post (I think EAT World is no longer running?), but Wellness Weekend will start up again Thursday evening–hope you link up! :)

    • Saveur said, on August 17, 2011 at 11:41 AM

      Oops, yeah, sorry about the premature link-up, Ricki! I had forgotten to change my links before I posted.

  3. Priya Yallapantula said, on August 17, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    wow, that looks great, I have some tofu at home, so will give this a try :)

  4. Joanne said, on August 17, 2011 at 8:16 PM

    i always use the whole head of cabbage, no matter how big it is or what the recipe says. I have so much trouble thinking of appealing cabbage recipes that I don’t usually want to have any left over! Now I have another one to add to my arsenal, though so life is good!

  5. miss figgy said, on August 17, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    mmmmm this is my kind of chinese!! I wish there was a kind of tofu you didn’t have to press. It makes it difficult when you want to make something impromptu

  6. Ashley said, on September 9, 2011 at 1:47 AM

    I totally know what you mean about cabbages, they’re always huge. I love this Asian inspired cabbage dish, and I agree that the sesame seeds are a great addition!

  7. Fabulicious Food! (@RenBehan) said, on September 9, 2011 at 6:53 AM

    Great recipe, thanks for linking up!

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