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What is Napa Cabbage? Everything You Need to Know

Napa cabbage is a type of Chinese cabbage that belongs to the brassica family, one of the largest plant families known to man.  In different parts of Asia it is called differently.  In Japan, ‘napa’ is a regional term that means the leaf of a vegetable.  In Korea, it is called Baecu and in China it is called dabaicai in Mandarin.  In western markets you can find this cabbage simply as called Chinese cabbage.

Now, Napa cabbage doesn’t look like your average cabbage and you might even dismiss it as just another type of lettuce but it’s incredibly beneficial for it. Its appearance is characterized by pale green leaves and white ribs. 

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How People Consume It

Napa cabbage is a diverse vegetable that can be consumed in a variety of different ways. 

Here are a few ideas of how you can incorporate Napa cabbage into your daily diet: 

1. Kimchi

Kimchi is a popular lacto-fermented dish that’s made with pickled Napa cabbage. It originates from Korea and requires quite a long brew using hot pepper, garlic, onions, fall radishes, and an airtight container. 

The good news is you can speed up the process and make your own overnight kimchi. Simple shred about three cups of Napa cabbage, add a sprinkle of salt, four chopped garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar or rice vinegar and one tablespoon of Sriracha or any other garlic-based hot-pepper sauce. 

Mix all the ingredients and leave them in the fridge to chill overnight. 

2. Soup

Shredded Napa cabbage can be added to any type of soup without affects its flavor or textures. It pairs well with beef and chicken soups. 

Here’s an easy weekday soup recipe for you to try; steam and chop two heads of Napa cabbage and add them to miso soup broth for an instant healthy soup. Or, add it to some Miso Noodle soup for a light summer or fall meal. 

3. Stuffed

Take your Napa cabbage, separate the leaves and blanch the whole until they wilt. Now, stuff them with pork, ground beef, rice - whatever tickles your fancy. 

Napa cabbage is also great when added to vegetarian cabbage rolls with tempeh or regular Asian ones with meat. 

4. Slaw

Coleslaw is one of the oldest and most loved dishes that can go with almost any dish. It’s also an easy way to incorporate Napa cabbage by swapping your usual European cabbage for it. Add some yogurt and you’ve got yourself a creamy winner! 

5. Spring Rolls

Add some Napa cabbage to your spring rolls. It doesn’t matter if its raw or cooked - it’ll taste delicious when paired with bean thread noodles, pork, shrimp, and veggies all wrapped into one spring roll. Have some Asian-style dipping sauce on the side such as peanut sauce and you’re good to go! 

6. Stir Fry

Napa cabbage is a regular addition to most Asian stir-fry recipes and that’s because it pairs well with most ingredients and can be cooked in a variety of ways. 

You can dice the leaves, separate them from the stems or grate them in - the choice is yours! Just make sure to keep the green parts because it can be added to the dish towards the end of the cooking process. 

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