This dish brings several tasty flavors together: there’s mild bitterness from the kale, sweetness and some heat from the chiles, and salty umami from the soy sauce and the mushrooms. Ground pork adds some texture, but is optional.
Kale belongs to the Brassicaceae family, also known as the crucifers or the cabbages. Kale itself is Brassica oleracea var. acephala, or in Chinese 甘蓝菜 (gānláncài). Brassica oleracea includes many other favorites as well, including broccoli and cauliflower (var. botrytis), cabbage (var. capitata), and Brussels sprouts (var. gemmifera). But never mind all that. Let’s just cook.
Kale is the star of the show:
But there are some tasty supporting actors as well:
My cousin Amy mentions that her garden is practically overflowing with fresh kale right now. For her benefit I’ll just point out that this recipe can go from garden to table in the time that it takes to make some rice.
INGREDIENTS and PREP:
- 1/4 lb ground pork
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 Tbsp soy sauce
- About 1 lb kale, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1″ x 2″, tough stems discarded)
- 4 Anaheim chiles, sliced thinly; 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, halved; 4 scallions, finely chopped; 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- Heat your wok until barely smoking. Then add 1 Tbsp peanut oil and swirl it around. Add the ground pork (#1) and stir-fry until no longer pink. Toss in the chopped garlic (#2) and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Then stir in the soy sauce (#3).
- When the liquid starts bubbling, add the kale (#4) and stir-fry for 5-8 minutes. The kale will wilt in 2-3 minutes, but keep on cooking it so that it gets tender.
- When the kale has softened, add the chiles, mushrooms, scallions, and basil (#5). Stir-fry for about another minute, then serve with rice and contrasting dishes.
VARIATIONS: This dish is easily made vegan by just omitting the ground pork. The pork does deliver a bit of texture and protein though, so if you like, you can replace it with firm tofu crumbles or some other kind of vegetable protein. Thai cooks will see the basil and wish for fish sauce, so if that speaks to you, you can add 1-2 tsp fish sauce to #3 above. Feel free to vary the type and quantity of the chiles to achieve your desired level of taste and heat. If you use a chiles that are less sweet than Anaheims, you can add 1 tsp sugar to the soy sauce.
The essential Chinese pantry is here.