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Get your bowls and hungry bellies ready, because today we’re making a quick and easy cabbage and chicken stir fry, with a collection of other tasty veggies and flavorful ingredients to complete the dish.
I’ve always been fascinated with the art of tossing food in the air, and making a stir fry at home reminds me of this.
Not like a circus clown juggling oranges or anything (though, if he provided fresh-pressed juice at the end of the performance, I wouldn’t say no…). There’s just something about the live presentation of this type of dish that’s nearly impossible to look away from.
Just ask my ten-year-old self who decided to have her birthday party at a hibachi restaurant. There’s no hibachi grill or teppanyaki-style flattop required for the making of this meal. But I’m reminded of the artistry of those chefs whenever I prepare stir fry at home.
Every town of a certain size seems to have its own teppanyaki-style eatery, and in Raleigh where I grew up, Kanki was our local hibachi-lover’s paradise. It was the hot spot for anniversaries, first dates, prom nights, and naturally, ten-year-olds’ birthday parties.
But it wasn’t just a childhood favorite for me. Trips to the restaurant continued all the way through college as I simply couldn’t get enough of this stir-fry schooling. I would study the way the luscious clarified butter and soy splashed onto the steaming flattop with briny shrimp, crunchy veggies, and seared yakisoba noodles.
I would gawk in genuine wonder as my table’s chef would effortlessly shovel and flip crispy rice and runny eggs in a smoky vapor of garlic and sesame oil
Though the techniques brought to mind differ from one to the next, reflecting different types of Japanese and Chinese cooking styles with their own unique traditional heat sources and cooking vessels or surfaces, these restaurant experiences served a more clear-cut purpose for me.
Needless to say, I became obsessed with creating stir fries in my own kitchen.
And if you’re new to the world of wok-ing it out at home, I’m happy to share with you the most important piece of advice you’ll ever hear in regards to making stir fry at home.
Are you ready?
Prep. Is. Everything.
The true beauty of a stir fry is the ease with which the dish comes together right before your eyes. And that’s kind of difficult to do when the garlic is about to burn because your soy sauce is still in the fridge and you just realized you have no idea what a scallion is.
It seems like a simple concept, but that ahead-of-time-work – also known in the French culinary world as mise en place, or putting everything in its place before you start cooking – helps to control the outcome of your dish and ensures better results.
If you’re left scrambling for ingredients rather than having them all ready to dump directly into your skillet or wok, you leave a lot of room for error. Something will undoubtedly be off.
But if you get everything measured and prepped ahead of time and have it sitting neatly alongside your pan, the cooking for this particular recipe actually takes less time than your slicing and dicing. Once your cooking vessel is fired up and ready to go, it’s game time.
As everything makes its way into the hot oil, there’s no time for Snapchatting a story to your BFF (#stirfrylife), seeing if your cat needs water, or fixing yourself a quick snack.
Beyond the prep work, simplicity is key. A balanced combination of textures makes for a quality stir fry. Great news! This recipe follows suit.
Juicy chicken is a no-brainer that will cook quickly when cut in cubes, though pork could also be tasty. I love to rotate the veggies based on what I have on hand, and their level of crunch.
Today, cabbage is called on as the main counterpart to the chicken, and I personally think it’s one of the most underrated veggies out there.
As it begins to soften when it cooks, it’s still got the crisp bite of an onion without the overwhelming flavor. In a stir fry, it sweetens slightly as it caramelizes, just like onions do.
You’ll be like, “No way this is the same green globular object I pass by in the grocery store all the time.”
Garlic, ginger, and scallions are the pungent flavor trio that gives life to the oil where all of your other ingredients take a dip, while meaty mushrooms, crunchy celery, and water chestnuts each bring their own specific consistency and personality.
Snow peas add a sweet, vegetal snap and some bright color.
There are plenty of ways to spin your stir fry sauce and give it a little something extra, but as far as basics go, soy sauce has such complex, rich notes that a little chicken stock to up the volume of liquid is all you really need to coat everything just right.
If you’re as captivated by the whole “food tossing” process as I am, just wait until you take the cooking into your own hands. If you attempt that shrimp-in-the-hat trick, though, and things go terribly wrong, I accept no liability.Print
In the mood for a sizzling stir fry you can make at home? Our easy version combines juicy chicken, crisp cabbage, and crunchy veggies.
- 2 cups cubed chicken breast (about 12 ounces)
- 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt, divided, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 4 green onions, white and green parts chopped separately (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 cup chopped celery (about 1 medium stalk)
- 1 cup sliced cremini, shiitake, or white button mushrooms
- 4 cups shredded green or napa cabbage (about 1 small head)
- 1 cup snow peas, strings removed
- 1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, rinsed and drained
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, for garnish
- Garlic chili sauce, for serving
- Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- Heat a large, deep skillet or a wok over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the garlic, ginger, and white parts of the green onions and toss quickly for about 30 seconds, keeping a close eye on them to make sure they don’t burn.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high, add the chicken to the pan, and sear, tossing often, until golden-brown all over and almost entirely cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. If you’re not using a wok, remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate. Otherwise, push the chicken to the sides of the pan.
- Add the remaining oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add the celery and mushrooms. Cook, tossing to promote even browning and being careful not to crowd the pan, for about 1 minute.
- Add the cabbage. Season with the remaining salt and cook until the cabbage wilts, about 3-5 minutes, shaking the pan and stirring often to make sure the veggies are cooked evenly.
- If you set the chicken aside, return it to the pan. Stir in the snow peas and water chestnuts. Add the soy sauce and chicken stock, and cook for 1-3 more minutes, tossing frequently, until the stir fry is coated with the sauce and the chicken is cooked through.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.
- Divide among plates, garnish with the green scallion tops and sesame seeds, and serve with garlic chili sauce.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Stir Fry
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Chicken
Keywords: chicken, cabbage, stir fry
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Gather, Prep, and Measure Ingredients
To begin, gather all of your ingredients, as well as your wok or a large frying pan. Wash the produce.
Mince the garlic and ginger. Chop the celery and green onions, keeping the white and green parts of the green onion separate.
Thinly slice the mushrooms. If you’re using shiitakes, make sure to slice off the woody, tough stems first – you can reserve them for stock!
If you can only find a medium-size cabbage, use about half to get the quantity you need.
Pull off and discard any damaged outer leaves of the cabbage and trim the stem flat so it can sit upright. Holding the cabbage upright, quarter vertically into wedges.
Holding one of the wedges (so one of the cut sides is flat on the cutting board), make an angled cut to remove the core. Shred the wedges by running your knife through the leaves to make thin strips.
You can also use a mandoline or the shredding disc attachment on your food processor blade to shred the cabbage.
For an even more flavorful stir fry sauce, whisk 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar or mirin with 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar, brown sugar, or honey. Add the soy sauce and chicken stock, and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Remove the strings from the snow peas. Rinse and drain the canned water chestnuts.
Cube the chicken into bite-size pieces and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
I love to add a touch of heat to stir fries just before serving to perk up my taste buds, so I reach for Huy Fong’s chili garlic sauce.
Feel free to grab your favorite, or you can find my top pick in a two-pack of 18-ounce jars on Amazon.
A spicy toasted sesame oil also works wonders. Eden Foods hot pepper sesame oil in 5-ounce bottles is also available on Amazon.
Measure all remaining ingredients, and you’re ready to go.
Step 2 – Heat and Flavor the Oil
Preheat a large, deep skillet or a wok over medium heat. Once the wok begins to smoke, add 2 tablespoons of the canola oil, swirl to coat the pan, and then add the garlic ginger, and white parts of the green onions.
Toss quickly for about 30 seconds, and keep a close eye on them to make sure they don’t burn and become bitter.
Step 3 – Add the Chicken
Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the chicken to the pan. This will immediately cool down the temperature of the oil so the aromatics don’t burn. Sear the chicken, tossing often, until golden-brown all over and almost entirely cooked through, for about 3 to 5 minutes.
If you have a large wok, you can cook all of the ingredients together without removing the chicken, and adding the veggies in batches. But if you’re working with a skillet, the veggies will saute more evenly if you set the chicken aside after browning.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the pan and transfer it to a plate. If you’re working with a wok, push the chicken to the side.
Step 4 – Add the Veggies
It’s important not to crowd the pan, so unless you have one that’s very large, it’s best to add the ingredients in batches to prevent steaming. This also helps you to control the cook time for vegetables with different textures and consistencies.
Add the remaining oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add the celery and mushrooms and cook for about 1 minute, tossing all of the ingredients around in the pan to promote even browning.
Add the cabbage, season with the remaining salt, and cook until the cabbage wilts. This will take about 3 to 5 minutes, shaking the pan and stirring often to ensure that everything is cooking evenly.
If you set the chicken aside, return it to the pan at this point to cook through.
Stir in the snow peas and water chestnuts.
Step 5 – Add the Sauce and Serve
Keeping the ingredients moving and continuing to shake the pan, pour in the soy sauce and chicken stock, or the sauce that you prepared ahead of time.
Continue tossing the stir fry to coat the ingredients in the sauce for 1 to 3 more minutes, heating the water chestnuts and snow peas through, and ensuring that the chicken is fully cooked.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.
Divide the stir-fry among plates, garnish with the green tops of the green onions and the sesame seeds, and serve with garlic chili sauce.
That’s One Sassy Stir Fry
Finishing the dish with a swirl of sesame oil and a sprinkle of seeds on top really brings the whole thing together, so don’t skip that step!
Speaking of sesame, toasting the seeds brings some extra nuttiness and pop to your garnish, and it’s as easy as one, two, three – just toast over medium heat in a dry skillet until golden-brown before you begin cooking, and set aside until you’re ready to serve.
You can keep things strictly low carb by enjoying this stir fry solo, or serve it over steamed brown rice or noodles for a more filling meal.
How will you serve yours? Share your suggestions in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Whether you just discovered that you have a crush on cabbage or you couldn’t resist the cruciferous veg already, try these other recipes that give these tasty leaves some love next:
- Autumn Napa Cabbage Salad
- Garlic Ginger Vegetarian Tacos with Sweet and Spicy Cabbage Slaw
- Cabbage, Potatoes, and White Beans
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on January 22, 2014. Last updated on May 10, 2022.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”