What Is Chinese Cabbage?
The scientific name for Chinese cabbage is Brassica rapa. Napa cabbage, the most common variety, is the subspecies pekinensis. The name is most likely derived from the Japanese word nappa—meaning leafy green—rather than a location, which is why it’s not capitalized. You may also see it labeled as Chinese white cabbage, Peking cabbage, or celery cabbage.
This oblong, large-headed cabbage has firmly packed, crinkly, pale green, thickly veined leaves and a white stalk (hence the alternative name “celery cabbage”). Because of the vegetable’s resistance to cold, the cabbage has become popular throughout the world, especially in the northern regions of the globe. Napa cabbage is easy to prepare and, due to its increased use, is relatively easy to find. Chinese cabbage is a perfect vegetable choice if you’re on a budget or feeding a crowd—it’s nutritious, inexpensive when compared to a lot of other vegetables, and it’s filling. It’s also rated by gardeners as a vegetable that’s easy to grow.
How to Cook With Chinese Cabbage
Napa cabbage can be eaten raw in salads. It has high water content and takes on a sweet and juicy flavor when cooked, picking up other flavors from the food it’s cooked with. Since it softens as well, it’s frequently added to stir-fries and soups in the last stages of cooking.
Be sure to thoroughly rinse napa cabbage before preparing it. Allow it to drain in a colander. You will also want to remove the stem, cutting the bottom inch or so from the base of the plant. You can either cut the entire head in half lengthwise or leave it whole before chopping it into strips. Depending on how it’s to be used, another option is to pull off individual leaves, as you would green cabbage.
In addition to incorporating it into traditional Chinese recipes, you can also use napa cabbage to line a bamboo steamer. This will help prevent food from sticking to the bottom when cooking.