Napa cabbage (scientific name Brassica rapa Pekinensis), often referred to as Chinese cabbage, is native to a place close to Beijing in China and currently this vegetable is used extensively in the cuisines of several east Asian countries. In China as well as many other parts of the world, napa cabbage is also known as sui choi. This vegetable is also known by various different names in different regions of the world. For instance, it is called celery cabbage in English, known as wong bok or won bok in New Zealand and called wombok is Australia. Many people in the U.K. also refer to this vegetable simply as Chinese leaf. Compared to several other Chinese cabbages like bok choy, napa cabbage has a paler hue. Even bok choy is often referred to as Chinese cabbage.
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Napa cabbage is an annual vegetable that is found during the cool season. This vegetable grows most excellently when the days of the year are mild as well as short. This vegetable has an oblong shaped head that comprises firmly arranged creased, dense, pale green leaves having prominent white veins. The leaf layers in the center have a pale yellowish hue.
Napa cabbage belongs to the cabbage family which has had its origin in China numerous millennia back. Apart from the different names of this vegetable discussed above, napa cabbage is also referred to as Peking cabbage. The elongated oblong-shaped head of this vegetable is tightly packed with crinkled, pale green leaves in an erect position. While the leaves have a light green color, the stalk below is even paler - like light green approaching white.
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Compared to the usual green cabbages we see in the market, napa cabbage tastes slightly milder and a little sweeter. Napa cabbage can be consumed raw and also after cooking. In fact, the leaves of this vegetable can be used as a substitute for the standard green cabbages in nearly all recipes.
People in China have been cultivating napa cabbage some time since the 15th century. Currently, this is a very popular vegetable throughout China, partially because of its resourcefulness and multi-purpose use. People in Korea too have been growing this vegetable for several centuries now. In this country napa cabbage is salted, pickled, and also used to prepare the national dish called kim chi by flavoring the leaves with chili peppers and ginger. People in North America became familiar with napa cabbage only during the end of the 19th century when the vegetable was brought in from China. Currently, people in nearly all countries across the world cultivate this vegetable.
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When you are buying a napa cabbage head from any farm stand or a grocery store, it is advisable that you opt for those with leaves that are packed in and in one piece. When you hold the cabbage head in your hand, it should feel weighty. At the same time, ensure that the napa cabbage you are selecting does not have any mark of becoming yellowish or wilting. It should also not be slimy or contain any brown blemishes.
Provided the cabbage is not washed, it will keep well for anything between five and seven days when stored in the vegetable crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Ideally, you need to keep the entire head of the vegetable in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. Never cut either the leaves or the ribs of the cabbage until you want to use them. When the leaves are cut they begin to oxidize very quickly and, as a result, some of the vital nutrients of the cabbage will be lost. Consequently, the vegetable will also start decomposing faster.
To prepare any dish with napa cabbage, chefs should preferably use a sharp-edged knife for cutting its head literally into two halves. The core at the center of the vegetable's base should be cut and discarded. Subsequently, they should separate the leaves of napa cabbage and wash them separately under fresh running water to get rid of dirt or small pests, if there are any. After cleaning, the leaves need to be spun dried or patted using paper towels to do away with the water.
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It has been found that 100 grams (1.25 cup) of sliced raw napa cabbage encloses under 20 calories. At the same time, napa cabbage does not contain any fat or cholesterol, while its sodium content is very negligible. Napa cabbage is an excellent source of dietary fiber, folate, and vitamin C, as well as essential minerals like potassium, calcium and manganese. In general, it is believed that cabbages are packed with natural compounds that have the potential to play a crucial role in slowing down the progress of specific forms of cancer.
People in China and neighbouring Japan and Korea use napa cabbage extensively. In fact, this vegetable is especially popular in northern Gangwon Province of South Korea. In China, napa cabbage is considered to be a symbol of prosperity and is seen as a pictogram in glass as well as porcelain figures. The celebrated Jadeite Cabbage sculpture in Taiwan's National Palace Museum is basically a carving of one variety of napa cabbage. As many people from these eastern Asian nations have migrated to different parts of the world, one can easily find napa cabbage in several cities in Europe, North America and Australia.
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In Korean gastronomy, sui choy or napa cabbage forms the main ingredient of baechu kimchi, the most familiar type of kimchi. Apart from this, people in Korea also consume the tender inner leaves of napa cabbage raw as pork or oysters wrapping or eat them after dipping in gochujang. The tougher external leaves of sui choy are also used in soups. Compared to the regular cabbage or bok choy, sui choy is said to have a more delicate flavour. You can use this vegetable in stir-fry along with various ingredients like mushroom, tofu or zucchini. In addition, napa cabbage is also a very frequent ingredient that many consume along with hot pot.
Napa cabbage or sui choy has several uses. This vegetable, known as sui choy in its land of origin, offers us numerous health benefits and some of them are discussed below.
Sui choy or napa cabbage is loaded with vitamin C and each 100 grams of freshly obtained leaves of this vegetable supply us with approximately 35 percent to 40 percent of this nutrient that is essential for an adult daily. This vitamin assists in providing us with just the right resistance against various types of infections.
Dietary fiber contained by napa cabbage helps to lower high blood pressure (hypertension), lessens the risks of having strokes, and developing gallstones. It also helps to avoid diverticular disease, hemorrhoids and other conditions. In addition, to some extent, dietary fiber also helps to lessen the chances of developing certain forms of cancer.
Napa cabbage also encloses significant concentrations of vitamin K, which has a vital role in strengthening the bones. Vitamin K is also essential for the utmost health of the bones. In addition, this nutrient also assists in delaying osteoporosis. Vitamin K is also said to cure Alzheimer patients by somewhat restricting neuronal damage.
Sui choy encloses several helpful compounds such as carotenes, xanthins, and lutein that transform into vitamin A when inside our body. This vegetable is immensely popular among people who are conscious regarding their health, as it contains very few calories. For instance, a serving of 100 grams of this vegetable supplies us with only 16 to 17 calories.
This vegetable also contains a number of antioxidant phytochemicals such as carotenes, lutein, isothiocyanates, indole-3-carbinol, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin, and thiocyanates. Napa cabbage shields the body cells from oxidation caused by free radicals, in addition to protecting us from heart diseases as well as cancer.
Napa cabbage is a popular vegetable in East Asian countries and is extensively used in cuisines of these countries. This vegetable, also called sui choy, has a wonderful taste when cooked. Some people also consume the fresh leaves of napa cabbage raw in several dishes, such as salads.
People around the world use napa cabbage in different ways and in several cuisines. Some of the popular culinary uses of napa cabbage are discussed below.
Adding napa cabbage to stir fried dishes enhances their flavour and makes them more delicious. As in the case of other cabbages, including the regular green cabbage, sui choy is also used in making soups. The leaves of this vegetable can be used in vegetable soup, chicken soup, pork soup and several others. Napa cabbage forms an essential ingredient of the popular Asian Chicken Salad, which is prepared using carrot, cucumber, chicken, and other ingredients.
Finely sliced or shredded napa cabbage is frequently used to prepare Asian-style coleslaw. In addition, the shredded leaves of this vegetable can also be included in a mixed green salad for a pleasant crunch as well as to augment the nutritional value of the food. Cooks often prepare a simple cold salad by whisking together one tablespoon sesame oil, two tablespoons rice vinegar, one-fourth cup (60 ml) of salad oil, one teaspoon shredded fresh ginger, one tablespoon brown sugar, and one teaspoon soy sauce. This mixture is poured over four cups (280 grams) of finely shredded napa cabbage, half cup (60 grams) grated carrots, and one-fourth cup (25 grams) of finely sliced green onions and subsequently toss all the items for coating. You can garnish this delicious salad with roasted silvered almonds.
You can also blanch the whole napa cabbage leaves for a brief while and used as a stuffing. These leaves are generally used for wrapping fish prior to steaming or for lining a bamboo food steamer. In addition, when added to vegetable soups and stir-fries, shredded napa cabbage leaves augment their nutritional value.
Chemical analysis of the leaves of napa cabbage has shown that its nutritional value is much more compared to the ordinary green cabbage. Sui choi is packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fiber as well as antioxidants. At the same time, this vegetable is very low in calorie content.
Similar to majority of the vegetables that are members of the brassica family, napa cabbage also encloses some chemical compounds known as "goitrogens". These compounds are responsible for causing a condition called goiter or struma, a condition wherein the thyroid gland becomes enlarged.
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