When Joshua Walker and Duolan Li, who co-own Xiao Bao Biscuit with Joey Ryan, last month traveled around Chengdu, China, they encountered pao cai nearly everywhere they ate.
“Every restaurant seems to have its own variation,” Walker says of the quick pickle technique.
The recipe below is based on the trip’s standout pao cai, served at a little noodle parlor that Walker and Li visited late one night. “It’s a little like coleslaw without the mayo and more spice,” he says. “Or a little like kimchi with less funk and garlic.”
Because the dish is simple and refreshing, Walker says it can be served over rice or added to a sandwich. “But I love it with noodles,” he adds. Pao cai is now making nightly appearances in Xiao Bao Biscuit’s niu rou mian, a Taiwainese beef noodle soup.
2 pounds savoy cabbage
5 tablespoons sugar
1-2/3 tablespoons salt
3/4 cup plus 1-1/2 tablespoons chili oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons chili powder
Cut cabbage in half. Rotate 90 degrees and slice thinly. Add cabbage, sugar and salt to a large bowl. Drain liquid from cabbage. Combine chili oil and sesame oil in a small bowl. Add chili powder and continue to mix. Adjust seasoning to taste.