While several types of Chinese cabbage exist, the variety we most commonly associate with Chinese cabbage is Napa Cabbage, the large-headed cabbage with the firmly packed, pale green leaves that you'll usually find next to bok choy in western supermarkets. More healthful than western cabbages, Napa Cabbage is rich in Vitamin C and other nutrients. Like tofu, Napa Cabbage absorbs the flavors of the foods around it. It is eaten raw in salads, and often added to stir-fries and soups in the last stages of cooking.
Whether it's encountered in a Chinese stir-fry, pickled in Korean Kimchee or used in Japanese soups or sukiyaki, Chinese cabbage plays a principal role in Asian cuisine. Its mild delicate flavor makes it a welcome addition to a salad or sandwich, but it also makes the cabbage vulnerable to overcooking. In Asia, the vegetable is an important source of nutrition in winter. It is typically pickled in Japan and Korea and dried in China to be included in soups during the cold season.
Health benefits include the following:
- Chinese cabbage has anti-inflammatory properties
- It is an excellent source of folic acid
- Chinese cabbage is low in calories and low in sodium
- It is also high in vitamins A & C and a good source of potassium
To Use and Store
To clean bok choy, chop off just enough of the base of the bok choy plant so that you can clean the stalks and leaves individually under cool running water. T
o prep Chinese cabbage, cut the head in half lengthwise, then cut out and discard the core at the bottom center. Separate the leaves and wash them individually.
Bok choy and Chinese cabbage will keep in a plastic bag for five to seven days in the fridge.
Here are some general ideas of ways to use your cabbage...more specific recipes follow:
Napa cabbage rolls
Instead of using green cabbage, try some of the larger outer leaves of napa cabbage. Cut them in half and steam or boil them until they just turn soft and then fill with a mixture of cooked white rice and browned mild sausage or hamburger. Top with tomato sauce and bake until bubbly.
Kimchi is a spicy Korean side-dish, sort of like the hottest cole slaw you've ever eaten. Traditional kimchi can take several days to make. However, for a quick at-home version, combine a few cups of chopped napa cabbage, a tablespoon of sambal olek (an Eastern hot sauce), 3 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, 4 sliced cloves of garlic, and a healthy pinch of salt. Stir well, chill overnight and then eat right out of the bowl!
Napa cabbage stir-fry
If you have eaten a Chinese dish with vegetables, you have probably eaten napa cabbage. Typically, they are white squares that look like they should be onions, but have not turned clear. To do your own napa cabbage stir-fry, peel off 20 to 25 leaves and cut off the leafy green sections until all you have is the firmer white stems. Cut the white stems into two-inch pieces. Heat some peanut oil in a wok, cook the napa cabbage for 3 to 4 minutes until it starts to soften, and then add your favorite stir-fry sauce. Cook until the sauce starts to bubble. Serve hot over rice.
Napa cabbage slaw
Got a favorite cole slaw recipe? Try it with shredded napa cabbage. Napa cabbage slaw has a subtly different flavor and texture than classic cole slaw and is particularly tasty if you add fruit. For your next slaw, combine 2 cups diced mango, a finely diced jalapeno, 1 cup mayonnaise, 2 cups shredded napa cabbage, and 4 tablespoons rice or red wine vinegar. Refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight and serve.
Braised napa cabbage
For a quick and easy side-dish, add the cut up white stems of the napa cabbage to a skillet and cover them half way with vegetable broth, ground ginger, garlic powder, and a few teaspoons of soy sauce. Cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until the napa cabbage becomes soft.
Napa cabbage spring rolls
Napa cabbage has a great crunch that's perfect for spring rolls. Simply slice napa cabbage into thin strips and roll with cooked shrimp, rice noodles, and fresh basil in a spring roll wrapper. Serve with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, chilies and fish sauce.
Napa cabbage taco topping
Traditionally, tacos are topped with a healthy handful of lettuce. A better choice is napa cabbage, which is more flavorful and totes a crisper texture, which contrasts nicely with the taco fillings.
Napa cabbage soup
Warm up with a hearty bowl of napa cabbage soup. Add a few cups of chopped napa cabbage to your favorite vegetable, chicken or beef soup; it will give your soup a lot of body and for fewer calories than most other ingredients.
Chinese Cabbage Salad
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1 package (13 ounces) Chinese noodles,broken
- 1 large head Chinese cabbage, chopped
- 2 large bunches scallions, chopped
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place the almonds, sesame seeds, and noodles on a baking sheet. Bake for 4 minutes, or until just beginning to brown.
Combine the cabbage and scallions in a large serving bowl. In a small bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce. Pour over the lettuce mixture and toss to combine. Add the nut mixture and toss to combine.
If you're making this ahead to serve the next day, Amy recommends keeping the cabbage, dressing and nut mixture separate until just before serving.
Korean Napa Cabbage Kimchee
Kimchee is practically the official food of Korea and you wouldn’t wonder why if you’d tasted this spicy, pickled cabbage dish that so many families rely on as the go-to side dish, lunch, or quick dinner option.
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pickling salt
- 6 cups water
- 2 pounds Chinese (Napa) cabbage, cut into 2-inch squares
- 6 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths, then slivered
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons Korean ground dried hot pepper (or other mildly hot ground red pepper)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Dissolve the 3 tablespoons salt in the water; put the cabbage into a large bowl, a crock, or a nonreactive pot, and pour the brine over it; weigh the cabbage down with a plate; let the cabbage stand for 12-hours.
- Drain the cabbage, reserving the brine; mix the cabbage with the remaining ingredients, including the 1 teaspoon salt; pack the mixture into a 2-quart jar; pour enough of the reserved brine over the cabbage to cover it; push a freezer bag into the mouth of the jar, and pour the remaining brine into the bag; seal the bag. Let the kimchi ferment in a cool place, at a temperature no higher than 68 degrees F, for 3 to 6 days, until the kimchi is as sour as you like.
- Remove the brine bag, and cap the jar tightly. Store the kimchi in the refrigerator, where it will keep for months. Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.