By Vicky Chan of NourishU
Chinese cabbage is similar is size and shape to a football. There are a few outside leaves that are pale green, but most of the inside leaves are pale yellow with white stalks, thus it is commonly known as “wong bok” (yellow white). Chinese cabbage is a night shade vegetable grown mainly in the northern parts of China in colder temperatures. It is readily available, very inexpensive and keeps a long time, and therefore was a common staple for the peasants. Chinese cabbage is also popular and grown in Japan and Korea where it is known as nappa cabbage and is mostly used in making hot pot and kimchee.
Chinese cabbage is sweet in taste, neutral in nature and has a high nutritional content. For each 100g of cabbage, it has 37mg of vitamin C, 140mg of calcium and 50mg of potassium. It also contains vitamin A and K, and many trace minerals including selenium. Each cup of cabbage juice has as much calcium as a cup of milk and its calcium to potassium ratio is ideal for easy absorption. The vegetable is high in fiber so is good for promoting digestion and can prevent constipation. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can lower internal heat, clear phlegm and cough, is a diuretic, detoxifies and prevents cancer growth. The vegetable is filling but low in calories; therefore is good for people wanting to lose weight. It can also lower blood pressure to prevent heart diseases and muscular degeneration. It is also known for helping to treat skin disorders, eczema and jaundice by using the juice on the affected areas.
The story of how Chinese cabbage became famous is quite incredible. It was said that the Empress Dowager Cixi of the Qing Dynasty at around 1900 became very ill in her old age and was having respiratory failure, high fever, lack of energy and was unable to eat or drink, urinate or move her bowels. No doctor or medicine was able to help her. Upon the advice of a monk she was fed only Chinese cabbage juice and soup which saved her life. She was nursed back to health by eating mostly food made with Chinese cabbage to replace her usual diet of delicate, expensive, highly refined, meaty and rich foods. After her recovery, she praised Chinese cabbage as the king of all vegetables.
The lesson learned was that eating only the “good” food can be deadly and a healthy diet should be balanced with less meat and more vegetables, and a lot of roughage to keep things moving through the body. The value of food cannot be determined just by the price alone because the cheapest food can be so good for our health. In today’s world where many people are being overfed and under nourished, Chinese cabbage is an excellent option. It is also tasty, cheap, and quick and easy to prepare.
There are many ways of preparing Chinese cabbage. You can make it into a soup in less than 15 minutes with thin slices of meat or mushrooms or both. You can add it to a stir-fry, serve it as a side dish, add it to a stew, put it inside a dumpling or make into cabbage rolls. The possibilities are endless.
To make it as a side vegetable dish, you will only need to stir-fry it with some minced ginger and garlic and season it with salt and pepper. If you want to top up the tastes a bit, you can add some cooking wine, sesame oil and oyster sauce. The following recipe is a grand version to demonstrate what else you can add to the vegetable to make it an outstanding dish with additional tastes and health benefits. All the ingredients are optional and the quantity of each ingredient can vary according to availability and your preference. This recipe is also perfect for turning it into a soup by boiling everything in water for about 20 minutes. You do not need to add oyster sauce and potato starch to the soup to keep the soup natural tasting and clear.
Mushroom & Chinese Cabbage Stir-fry
Ingredients (for 4 to 5 servings)
- Chinese cabbage – half (or one small one)
- Dried small shrimp – 1 to 2 spoonfulls
- Goji-berries – 2 spoonfuls
- Ginger – 3 slices (minced)
- Garlic – 3 cloves (minced)
- King oyster mushrooms – 3 to 4
- Shiitake mushrooms – 3 to 4
- cooking wine – 2 spoonfuls
- sesame oil – one spoonful
- oyster sauce – two spoonfuls
- Cut cabbage into halves lengthwise and then cut the half into sections. Rinse a couple of times and strain.
- Rinse dried shrimp quickly, strain and put aside. Soak goji-berries for 15 minutes, rinse a few times and put aside.
- Remove stems from mushrooms, rinse and cut them into slices.
- Warm 2 spoonfuls of oil in a stirring pan or wok, add ginger and dried shrimp to stir for a couple of minutes until the aroma of shrimp comes out.
- Turn up heat, add cabbage and stir to cook until the leaves are withered (about 5 to 6 minutes). No need to add water because the cabbage will release a lot of juice. Add salt and white pepper to taste and mix well. Put cabbage aside and keep the juice separate in another container.
- Warm 2 spoonfuls of oil in the pan and add garlic to stir for a few moments. Add mushrooms to stir-fry for about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add goji-berries, cooking wine, sesame oil, oyster sauce and about 3 spoonfuls of the cabbage juice to the cooking and stir to mix. Use another 2 spoonfuls of the cabbage juice to mix with one spoonful of potato starch and add it to the cooking and stir.
- Return the cabbage to mix into the mushrooms and put everything on a plate to serve.
Chinese cabbage belongs to the cruciferous vegetable group so people with hypothyroid (under active) should not eat too much of this vegetable.