Crispy Seaweed

I wonder how many people, like me, didn’t know that what’s billed as ‘crispy seaweed’ in E Asian restaurants, is actually fried cabbage leaves?

After making this recipe, I can attest that the flavour and texture are exactly what you expect. This is the perfect side dish to practically any main.

This recipe takes 5-7 minutes from start to finish.

Serves: 2 – 3 as an accompaniment


  • 1 Savoy cabbage: 4 outer, greenest leaves only
  • A small knob of unsalted butter (omit for vegan)
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (5 Tbsp if not using butter)
  • 1 hot red chilli, finely diced
  • Szechuan pepper, to taste
  • Ground sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp white caster sugar – optional (see Greens footnote)


  • A large, deep frying pan or wok
  • A chopping board and sharp knife
  • A plate
  • Kitchen paper


  1. Heat your your frying pan/wok over a very high heat.
  2. Roll 2 cabbage leaves up quite tightly and finely slice across all of the darkest green part, avoiding the core. Repeat for the other 2 leaves.
  3. Add the oil and butter (if using) to your pan, and swirl to cover the whole pan. Add the shredded cabbage and toss it lightly.
  4. Add the chilli and pepper, and keep moving/tossing the cabbage.
  5. Fry until you have the crispiness you prefer. I cook it 4-5 minutes because I like it really extra-crispy, but you might find 2-3 minutes is enough for you.
  6. Remove to a plate covered with kitchen paper, sprinkle over salt (and sugar if using), and toss lightly. Let drain a minute or so, then serve.

Alternate Greens
You can use almost any dark-green cabbage leaves for this, depending on seasonality – savoy, hisby, spring greens, kale, etc. Ensure you remove, or simply avoid when chopping, the rough centre core. Be aware that some cabbages are more bitter than others (kale, I’m looking at you), so a touch of sugar really helps with them.

I’m a fan of Szechuan pepper for this dish, as it’s aromatic and slightly fruity, and ensures an authentic ‘crispy seaweed’ taste. But you can use regular black pepper or rainbow peppercorns to your taste.

Serving Suggestion
I served my Oysters Three Ways on beds of crispy seaweed (with some bacon), and I was surprised how well the oyster emulsion from that recipe went with the bacony cabbage.


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