This recipe is a prime example of Japanese osouzai, or everyday food – simple and yummy. The fried tofu (aburaage) and napa cabbage (hakusai) soak up the dashi for a beautifully soft and juicy texture. A great side dish for the cold winter months!
As with some other leafy layer vegetables, there is a taste and texture hierarchy among napa cabbage leaves, starting from the somewhat tougher outer green leaves, good for stir fry, and slightly sweetening and softening the closer you get to the centre leaves, which make a lovely addition to miso soup. You can use any part of the cabbage for this recipe, but remember to separate the white ribs (which you cook first) from the green leafy part (which you add later). And here’s a handy cooking tip: cutting the thick white ribs on an angle results in a melty softness, and also helps it absorb more of the broth.
Heat a pan to medium-high and add the vegetable oil. Add the white pieces of cabbage and stir fry until slightly translucent. Then add the green leafy parts and continue to stir-fry until coated with oil.
Add the fried tofu and simmering ingredients, and cover with a drop lid. Lower the heat to medium and simmer until the cabbage softens, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve hot, and enjoy!