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What is Chinese Cabbage?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2016
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Chinese cabbage is a green, leafy vegetable that is popular in Chinese cooking. This vegetable is a member of the brassica family. It is sometimes called bok choy, Peking cabbage, or snow cabbage. The various names probably stem from the fact that there are numerous varieties of plants in this species.

Chinese cabbage is believed to have originated in China. Later, it was likely introduced to other countries throughout the region and then spread around the world. Today, Chinese cabbage is available in many countries but tends to be most popular in Asia.

Usually found in Western markets, when the vegetable is raw it can be identified by its elongated head and chalk-white stalks topped with deep green leaves. In Asia, there tends to be wider variety available that may vary in appearance. Some, for example, can be found with green stalks.

The stalks and leaves are generally different textures. The stalks of Chinese cabbage are much like celery, but are not stringy. The leaves are much more delicate. When cooking both parts together, it is usually suggested to allow the stalks to begin cooking first.

Chinese cabbage is rich in Vitamin C, fiber, and folate. The color of the leaves suggest that it is rich in beta-carotene and calcium, especially in comparison to other types of cabbages that are less green. It is a vegetable that is generally low in fat but high in potassium.

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Although Chinese cabbage tends to be most popular in cooked recipes, it is not an exception to the rule of vegetables, which states that more nutritional benefits will be reaped if it is eaten raw or minimally cooked. Steaming and braising are two preparation methods that are often suggested. There are also recipes that call for it to be added to soups. People who choose to eat it raw can enjoy it tossed in a salad mixed with other greens.

When shopping for Chinese cabbage, visual inspection can provide a good idea of which plants are best. The colors should be vibrant. Varieties with white stalks should have bright and firm stalks. It is best if the leaves are not only green but also crisp and perky. Those with parts that are turning brown or that have slimy areas are not good choices.

This vegetable is not usually considered seasonal in terms of availability. Most markets that offer Chinese cabbage sell it all year. It is not, however, a vegetable that is best purchased in bulk. It is generally best if eaten within a day or two of purchase.

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