Cabbage in Milk / 奶白菜

A Tang Exotic
Ham Meets Milk Meets White  Pepper

“There are no dairy products. Butter, milk and cheese are practically unknown in Chinese cooking.” — Gloria Bley Miller [1]

“Because vegetables are eaten daily at every meal, Chinese cooks have evolved countless ways of preparing them.” — Nina Froud [2]

Cooking Asian dishes with cabbage


And it’s cancer-fighting! But, since there are no dairy products in Chinese cooking, how does this Hong Kong classic come to exist? Since the British acquired their colony in Hong Kong, Cantonese people have been heading abroad, often for lengthy sojourns followed by return to their home region.

Many chefs came back with “exotic” ingredients and dishes, a few of which have joined the standard repertoire.  So we see ingredients likef Tomatoes, Milk, Indian Corn or Maize appearing in recipes devised by adventurous Hong Kong chefs, like this one, adapted from Nina Fraud

The minced Ham adds a delicate note of flavor and color.  While Black Pepper would work, many Chinese  chefs tend to favor White Petter, especially in light-colored dishes like this one.

Cabbage in Milk


Chinese – Cantonese/Hon gKong


Cocnut Oil

Cocnut Oil

1 pound Cabbage
2 tablespoons Lard or Vegetable Oil
1 cup Chicken or Veal Stock
1 teaspoon Cornstarch
½ cup Milk
1 ounce finely shredded Ham
Salt to taste
White Pepper to taste


First wash the Cabbage and cut or break into pieces about 2 inches square.

Pour boiling water over the Cabbage.  Let stand for 2 minutes.  Drain well and let stand in a colander until all the water has fully drained out.  This should be done well before cooking time.

Mince the Ham and set aside.

Prepare the Stock and set aside.  Dissolve some Cornstarch in a half cup of Milk to make a thin paste and set aside.

When ready to cook, heat a wok until it is hot, then put in the Oil.  When the Oil is hot but not smoking, put in the well-drained Cabbage leaves and quickly sir-fry for  2 minutes.

Add the Stock as well as the Milk with Cornstarch dissolved in it — best to combine them first before putting in the wok and make sure the Cornstarch is well-stirred at the last moment with no clumps or lumps.

Simmer covered 4 minutes, then turn out on a serving latter.  Sprinkle with White Pepper then garnish with the chopped Ham and serve immediately.This could serve 4 to 6 people in the context of a Chinese meal.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Cabbage is considered to be sweet, neutral and slightly cold.  Milk is held to be sweet, neutral and slightly warm.

Numerous studies by Western nutritionists show Cabbage to be valuable   in fighting cancer, cataracts and preserving cardiovascular health.

See also  our post Does Cabbage Fight Cancer?

For Further Information:

[1] Gloria Bley Miller, The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook (New York: Atheneum, 1966)
[2]Nina Froud, Cooking the Chinese Way (London: Paul Hamlyn, 1960),


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