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Four Ways to Cook and Serve Napa Cabbage

Napa cabbage and carrots

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Napa cabbage or wong bok is a sweet-tasting hearted type of Chinese cabbage. It is barrel-shaped, with tightly-wrapped leaves and a dense heart.

Napa cabbage can be steamed, boiled, quickly stir-fried, or eaten raw.

Napa cabbage and carrots
Napa cabbage and carrots

Napa cabbage has a light, sweet taste and is tender. It is the best storing of Chinese cabbages and can be kept for several weeks refrigerated.

The word “napa” comes from the colloquial Japanese word “nappa” which refers to the leave of any vegetable when used as food.

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How to choose napa cabbage

  • Select napa cabbage that is compact, firm, crisp, and fresh. There should be no brown spots on the ribs.
  • Avoid greens whose leaves are slightly wilted or exhibit brown spots.

How to Store napa cabbage

  • Napa cabbage can be stored for weeks and even months if refrigerated in an upright position.

How to prepare napa cabbage

  • Wash napa cabbage just before using it.
  • Remove the desired number of leaves and trim the base of each, wash, drain, and use cooked or raw.
Soup: boiled minced pork, stuffed squid with Napa Chinese cabbage

Napa cabbage serving suggestions

  • Napa cabbage can be steamed, boiled, quickly stir-fried, or eaten raw.
  • Cooked leaves and stalks add flavor to soups, stews, pasta dishes, and stir-fries.
  • For stir-fry, salads, or soups, separate the leaves into julienne strips, wide ribbons, or squares.
  • Add ribbons to the broth during the last few minutes of cooking or simmer for a longer period of time in thick, stewy soups. Dice the crisper narrow stalks for a celery-like addition.

How to steam napa cabbage

  1. Add a few inches of water to a pot then insert a steamer basket. The water should not touch the bottom of the steamer basket.
  2. Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  3. Add whole or shredded leaves and cover.
  4. Steam until tender, about 4 or 5 minutes.

How to boil napa cabbage

  1. Shred or cut the head in halves or quarters.
  2. Bring a lightly salted pot of water to a boil.
  3. Put cabbage in the pot and boil for about 3 to 5 minutes for shredded leaves, and about 10 minutes for halves and quarters.
  4. Remove the cabbage with a slotted spoon and dry it on a kitchen towel or a paper-towel-lined plate.

How to stir-fry napa cabbage

  1. Tear or shred leaves.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok.
  3. Add the leaves and 2 sliced garlic cloves.
  4. Stir-fry until the leaves start to wilt then add a quarter cup or slightly more vegetable stock.
  5. Cover and cook for 3 minutes or until just tender.

How to sauté napa cabbage

  • Place a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet and place over medium-high heat.
  • Add thinly sliced, shredded, or small whole leaves and season with soy sauce or salt and pepper.
  • Cook, stirring often, until the leaves are tender, about 10 minutes.
Cabbage Napa
Napa cabbage

More about napa cabbage

  • Napa cabbage forms a stout head to about 10 inches (25 cm) high. The outer leaves curve inward and are dark green to pale green. The interior leaves and heart is yellow to creamy colored.
  • Napa cabbage cultivars include ‘Wong Bok’, ‘Nagaoka’, ‘Kasumi’, ‘Minuet, Rubicon’, ‘Tropic Pioneer’, ‘Yellow King’, ‘Spring Delight’, ‘Tropic Queen’, ‘Hwa King’, and ‘Tropic Star’.
  • The water content of these Asian cabbages is higher than that of the European varieties of cabbage. They are crisper and more refreshing and also less fibrous. The flavor of Asian cabbages is more subtle and pleasant than European head cabbage.

Napa cabbage belongs to the pekinensis subspecies of the Brassica genus.

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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