Now more readily available on supermarket shelves throughout Europe, Chinese cabbage (Pe-tsai, Pak-choi, or bok choy) is an ancient vegetable that is widely used in Asian cuisine. Halfway between green lettuce and white cabbage, Chinese cabbage has an elongated head of large bright green leaves on thick white stalks. With its delicate flavour, this cruciferous vegetable can be eaten raw or cooked.
Like most cruciferous vegetables, Chinese cabbage is high in nutrients and nutritional value. It is extremely high in bioavailable calcium, with an absorption rate of 54% (much more bioavailable than calcium that comes from dairy products, which is only absorbed at 32%), and also high in potassium, iron, manganese, and vitamins A, C, and K. With 13 kcal per 100 g, Chinese cabbage is known for its extremely low calorie content. It is mainly composed of water, carbohydrates (2.2 g per 100 g) and fibres (1 g per 100 g). Chinese cabbage is also consumed for its specific qualities. Rich in antioxidants and glucosinolates, Chinese cabbage, and cruciferous vegetables in general, help prevent the onset of several cancers by suppressing the development of tumours.
Chinese Cabbage is sold by weight and available in food markets and supermarkets. Go organic if you can, and select firm cabbage heads with tightly packed, crisp-looking leaves. Chinese cabbage can be wrapped in brown paper and stored in the refrigerator for up to 15 days.
Raw Chinese cabbage can be enjoyed as a salad, finely chopped and seasoned much like endives, either with a sweet and sour dressing (raisins, honey, and lemon juice) or with soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. The salad can be garnished with apples, nuts, sesame seeds, shredded carrots, pomegranate seeds, and grated horseradish, depending on individual preferences.
Chinese cabbage loses a lot of its volume when cooked. Keep that in mind before you start to cook. Eat it braised as an accompaniment to poultry, meat, or omelettes. Chinese cabbage is a favourite choice when preparing stir-fried vegetables or Asian-styled soups made with rice noodles, tofu, bean sprouts, and aromatic herbs. And of course, like all other vegetables, it can be used in homemade vegetable soups.
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