Chinese Cabbage is the term used to describe two cultivars of a leafy vegetable often produced and used in Chinese cuisine. These are known as the Pekinensis Group (napa cabbage) and the Chinensis Group (bok choy).
Even though they are known as cabbages in western cuisine they are in fact varieties of turnips and for the culinary purpose they can be treated as any other turnip. They are rather popular with the Asian community in the US, but also with the general foody crowd that’s growing larger
Chinese Cabbage Trivia
- The name (bok choi) means white vegetable
- It was brought in Europe in the 18th century, but it’s been grown in China for 5000 years
- It’s used as a folk cure for thyroid gland
Chinese Cabbage Buying Guide
When you’re looking for Chinese Cabbage you should try getting the stalks with pure white leafs and avoid those that look rusty or run down. Wilted leafs mean that the plant is too old to be used and the preferred color should be dark green.
The plant is in season throughout the year so it doesn’t matter where you buy it as long as the store keeps getting fresh batches on a regular basis. Spotted leafs are also to be avoided.
Chinese Cabbage Production & Farming in Texas
One of the two cultivars is more common than the other and that’s the one that’s known as napa cabbage, dà báicài (Chinese: 大白菜, “large white vegetable”); Baguio petsay or petsay wombok (Tagalog); Chinese white cabbage; “wong a pak” (Hokkien, Fujianese); baechu (Korean: 배추), wongbok and hakusai (Japanese: 白菜 or ハクサイ) usually refer to members of this group.
The other known as bok choy is less used and less frequently grown in Texas even though there’s a demand for it at least amongst the Asian community and a small group of foodies.
Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service have teamed up with local farmers in order to organize a study and see about the prospects for such an endeavor. The difference in climates is the biggest source of concern for the farmers.
“We’re doing the research because demand for Asian vegetables is increasing due to changing demographics and consumer awareness,” Niu said. “Asian vegetables are proven to be profitable crops in other states, but farmers in Texas aren’t familiar with how to grow them and whether they can be profitable. So, we want to look at market demand around the state and field test a range of Asian vegetables in four locations to see if they are a fit for Texas producers.”
The staring budget of the study is set at $50.000 and it will create a potential industry that’s worth much more than that.
Fungicide chlorothalonil or the insecticide thiamethoxam are the most common pesticides used on Chinese Cabbage.
This plant originates in China, in the delta of Yangtze River. There it was cultivated for thousands of years. They were moved to Japan and Korean peninsula in the 14th century. There it become a staple of local culture and from there it moved to Southeast Asia.
It was brought to the US by the Chinese immigrants. Therefore, it’s the most prevalent and the most used in the areas where there are plenty of Chinese immigrants, such as Florida and California.
Chinese Cabbage needs to be packed both on the field when it’s harvested and in the store where it’s packed for storage. The plant is left in the field after harvesting for about 30 minutes so that it dries and becomes easier to handle.
Then it’s packed in boxes and that’s how it’s how it’s sent to the stores where it can be packed in a variety of ways depending on how the store does it.
Enjoying Chinese Cabbages
The cabbage can be served raw or as a part of a simple salad. This is where it can be used as any other cabbage. It’s best to chop the cabbage into strips and adding a variety of other vegetables to the mix as well. These salads usually go well with: scallions, a chili, julienned carrots and a variety of different oils.
They are also stir fried and that’s where they are mostly used to provide a fresh and mild addition to heavy meals that rally on meats and spicy vegetables other than the cabbage. Preparation is rather easy and you get a lot of room for experimenting.
You shouldn’t wash Chinese Cabbage before you store it because that will make it rot faster. Put it in an ordinary zip plastic bag and place it in the crisp part of the fridge before using it. It should be used within 5 days and no more than that. Wash it carefully before use.
Stir frying is one of the most common way to use this vegetable other than using it in salads. Here’s one such recipe.
In a wok over high heat, add the oil. Sear the meat until caramelized. Add the garlic and chili, turn down the heat to medium, and stir-fry for a minute, taking care not to burn the garlic.
Add the cabbage, wine, soy sauce, sugar, and water.
Turn up the heat to high, cover the lid and let the cabbage cook for 1-2 minutes.
Uncover the lid, and stir in the black vinegar, scallions, and salt to taste. The cabbage should be wilted, but still slightly crunchy and caramelized.
Serve while it’s hot.
Bok choy and other cruciferous vegetables have certain anti-cancer properties.
Studies have shown that some people who eat more cruciferous vegetables have a lower risk of developing lung, prostate, and colon cancer.
Unlike most other fruits and vegetables, Bok choy contains the mineral selenium. Selenium helps to detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body.
Selenium also prevents inflammation and decreases tumor growth rates. Cruciferous and other vegetables also offer protection because they provide fiber. Fiber keeps the stool moving. This keeps the bowel healthy and reduces the risk of developing colorectal cancer.