Napa cabbage has been loved as the winter vegetable in Japan, especially it is the essential ingredient for Japanese hot pot (Nabe) as popular as a winter staple comfort dish.
In Shojin cuisine, it is called “Yo(u)jo(u) Sanpou”(養生三宝)- The three treasures for living healthy along with tofu and Daikon radish.
*Syojin cuisine…is the traditional diet style of Buddhist monks in Japan and especially grew widespread with Zen Buddhism in the 13th century.
I don’t know how popular Napa cabbage is in your country, but have you ever thought about its health benefits?
Rich in vitamin C, it has been known as enhancing immunity and skin tone.
This page introduces the health benefits and great Japanese cooking recipes using charming crunchy Napa cabbage!!!
Note. I am talking about Napa cabbage in Japanese culture.
What Is Chinese Cabbage?
Chinese cabbage (scientific name Brassica rapa, variety pekinensis) is a biennial plant of the rape family Brassicaceae. It is preferred as a winter vegetable in Japan and is widely cultivated and eaten.
“Chinese cabbage” in English refers to napa cabbage, bok choy, and some other family, but when the Japanese say Chinese cabbage, it refers to “Napa cabbage” only, not includes bok Choy.
So Napa cabbage in Japanese is “Hakusai”(白菜), means the white vegetable.
Nutrition And Health Benefits
About 95% of Hakusai contains is water, while the remaining 5% is nutritional ingredients. It is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, and also contains potassium and calcium.
Vitamin C is a protein required for wound healing and promotes the production of collagen, which has an antioxidant effect.
Vitamin K promotes blood coagulation and bone formation. Also, Vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient, so it hardly tends to dissolve in water and has the property of easily dissolving in fat.
Folic acid particularly works red blood cell formation. Folic acid deficiency is known as the cause of anemia, so it’s great to take folic acid proactively in daily life.
Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte, which has the effects of helping to maintain consistent blood pressure and keeping sodium balance of the body.
How To Choose And Storage Napa Cabbage
The Shopping Tip
Choose napa cabbage is vibrant, heavy, non-discoloring (yellowish, brownish), and the tip of the leaf is wrapped tight, and the bottom cut is white and fresh.
Sometimes you will see black spots on the ribs. In fact, neither a disease nor an insect. It is a kind of polyphenol in which protein is changed to α-amino nitrogen.
There is no problem to eat just not good looking. It is likely to occur due to excessive nitrogen fertilizer during cultivation.
Honesty I don’t buy napa cabbage in regular local grocery stores.
Probably the just one I got from a regular grocery for the first time in the eastern US was only not good taste, but I was so disappointed with the taste and price. since then, I put in my effort to buy napa cabbage at oriental grocery stores (Chinese, Japanese, Korean grocery stores) although I have to drive far because the taste and quality are much familiar with Hakusai that I have been eaten. (sweeter, meaty, and tasty.)
I am very happy to buy napa cabbage at the local farmer’s market the other day.
Of course in other states, different situations for sure.
The Storage Tip
Soak the napa cabbage in the water for a while until the leaves get lively. Not only the bottom but also water from the top. Cut a bottom a little if the color is brownish.
Slightly drain the water, but do not wipe off.
Wrap napa cabbage with the newspaper or kitchen paper and put it in a plastic bag and tie the bag loosely.
Storage in an upright position, do not lay it down.
This is the photo after 2 weeks I purchased.
If your place gets a cold temperature in winter, you can store it in a cool and dark place. It lasts for 2 weeks and could be more.
Remove a few leaves from the top layer if you don’t use whole cabbage, and wrap it with wet paper again. Do not cut half if you want to keep it more.
*if the bottom color is brownish, cut it again.
In this way, you can use for Romain lettuce, iceberg lettuce, green cabbage too.
Napa Cabbage In Japanese Cooking
IN JAPAN, for the best season of Hakusai is winter. When it gets the frost, it becomes sweeter and tasty. The taste is relatively pale and delicate compared to cabbage. Raw has a crunchy texture, very tender when cooked.
In western countries, napa cabbage is often used for salad, but in Japan, not so common way to eat as raw.
Generally, in Japanese cooking, it is used for stir-fry, winter hot pot, Gyoza, and pickled.
Depends on cooking, better decide ribs and leaves to cook.
For keeping charming crunchy texture of ribs, cut ribs as the same direction of fibers.
On the other hand, cut the ribs diagonally into pieces across the direction of fiber for hot pot dishes, stewed, soups. This cutting way is called “Sogi-giri”(そぎ切り) in Japanese cooking term.
Since the cut surface is wide, the taste easily penetrates, and the rib part is easily cooked in a shorter time.
Now, Check out my recipes on the next page!