Also called Chinese leaves, Chinese cabbage has pale, tightly wrapped, succulent leaves with crisp, broad, white ribs and a delicate, mild, sweet flavour. There are two basic types of Chinese cabbage: firm-headed and loose-headed. The firm-headed group is further divided into the short, barrel-shaped variety (sometimes called Napa cabbage), and taller cylindrical cabbages.
Chinese cabbages are available all year, look for fresh, firm heads that feel heavy for their size. Tiny black flecks on the leaves are normal and harmless. Reject heads that look wilted, limp or bruised.
Stored unwashed in a plastic bag in the salad drawer of the fridge, Chinese cabbage should keep well for a few weeks.
Only freeze crisp, young cabbage. Wash and shred, blanch, drain, then plunge into iced water and drain again. Place in freezer bags, label and seal. Cook from frozen.
To prepare, cut off the base, rinse the leaves in cold water and dry thoroughly. Cut across the leaves and stalk or slice lengthways into strips, then use raw in salads, stews and soups. Alternatively, steam or add to stir-fries and cook briefly.
Article by Clarissa Hyman