Sichuan’s Understated Superstar
The napa cabbage stir-fry, prepared in the sour hot style ("suan" means sour; "la," spicy) that is iconic in Sichuan and northern Chinese cuisines, was the most unassuming part of the spread but would disappear almost as soon as it hit the table. Its combination of malty black vinegar backlit with aromatics, savory sweetness, wok hei, and dried chile heat was beguil-ing. The glossy sauce was spare and light, clinging just enough to the cabbage's crunchy ribs and wilted leaves. When the vegetable itself was gone, we'd take turns spooning what was left of the glazy liquid over rice.
Recipe: Suan La Bai Cai