Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Napa Cabbage: From Koreatown To Your Kitchen

Image courtesy of
"Mommy? Where do babies come from?"

These words strike fear into the hearts of parents everywhere. That's why today's post will be extremely helpful in more ways than one because if you haven't heard already, babies come from today's vegetable, the cabbage. Cabbage patches, to be exact. I've seen a delivery live - up close and personal - at BabyLand General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia.

Image courtesy of
There's your answer. THAT, my friends, is how you answer the dreaded question when asked by your five year old. Problem solved. You can thank me later.

In addition to bringing forth life (I kid, I kid), cabbages are pretty stellar in the way of nutrition. In keeping with my Asian theme for the week, I'd like to focus on the Napa cabbage (or Chinese cabbage), which dates back to the fifth century A.D. Some suspect that this cabbage variety is a cross between bok choy and turnips. If that's true, no wonder I like it.

Napa cabbage is a slightly milder and sweeter version of your average green cabbage. It's oblong in shape and has large, tightly clustered light green and yellow leaves. It's the main ingredient in Korean kimchi (as mentioned in Sunday's post), but you can find Napa cabbage in many dishes because it's extremely versatile.

Here are a few of the reasons you should incorporate Napa cabbage into your diet...

FOLATE FRIENDLY - Napa cabbage is packed with folic acid, which your body needs to make and maintain cells. Folic acid also protects your DNA from cancer-causing mutations and helps support the proper growth of the fetus in pregnant women. Ladies, you might also like to know that oral contraceptives can inhibit your folic acid absorption, so Napa cabbage can help you pump your system with extra folic acid.

AN ANTIOXIDANT ALLIE - It goes without saying that this cruciferous vegetable is full of antioxidants. Antioxidants help fight cancer-causing free radicals in the body. You want lots of these in your diet!

FULL OF FIBER - Raw Napa cabbage contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which contribute to healthy digestion and overall wellness.

BONE BUILDING - Just 1 cup of raw shredded Napa cabbage provides you with 38% of your daily requirement of vitamin K. This vitamin ensures bone health, delays osteoporosis and even helps delay the progression of Alzheimer's.

DISEASE DESTROYING - You'll also get 46% (almost half!) of your daily requirement of vitamin C, which protects your body from disease and infection.

WEIGHT LOSS WONDER - That same cup contains only 20 calories! Napa cabbage can help you feel full without consuming a lot of fat and calories.

I know what you're thinking... This is all great news, but what do I do with it? That parts easy! You can use it as a wrapper or tortilla. Just wash a leaf and fill it full of goodies! You can also slice it into tiny shreds and make an Asian slaw or add it to your regular salad green of choice to spice up your salad. I like to cut it into pieces and throw it into a soup or stirfry. The leaves absorb flavor very well and do great in either.

This past weekend, Adam and I made our version of a vegetable pho with Napa cabbage. The beauty of this recipe is that you can use it as a basic framework and make it with whatever vegetables you like! There's a lot of chopping involved (don't say you weren't warned), but it will feed an army when you're done.

Separate the cabbage leaves and slice into 1 inch squares.
Leave a few leaves whole for the spring rolls you're going to make later. 
Peel and slice 1 white onion. You're aiming for crescent moon shaped slivers.
Thinly slice 4-5 carrots... organic preferably! Save some whole carrots for spring rolls too.
Add a little olive oil to the bottom of your large soup pot and saute the cabbage, onions and carrots for about 5-10 minutes until they are cooked. Throw some salt and pepper in there while you're at it.
Once the veggies are cooked, you need to make some broth! You can either add water (as much water as you want soup) with 2-3 vegetable bouillon cubes or fill with half vegetable broth/half water. Whichever you prefer. Also add 1 Tbs. of soy sauce and 1 Tbs. of minced fresh ginger.
Bring the soup to a boil for 1-2 minutes, then turn the heat down to
low-medium. In a separate pot, cook your udon or soba noodles (they cook fast, 2-3 minutes tops).
While the soup is simmering, add whole snap peas (or snow peas) and shiitake mushrooms (wash them first please!).
When the mushrooms and peas have cooked through, you're done! Just add the noodles to a bowl
and pour the soup on top!

Now that you've chopped a lot of veggies (way more than will fit in the soup), you can use the leftovers to make a side of spring rolls. You can find spring roll wrappers in the dry food aisle of the supermarket. They look like rice paper. For mine, I used shredded Napa cabbage, mung bean sprouts, thinly sliced carrots, fresh basil leaves and fresh cilantro. To make them, dip the spring roll wrappers in water (one at a time) until they soften slightly (not too long, or they'll become mushy). Place the wet wrapper on a cutting board or plate and fill the center with a small pile of ingredients (not too much or it will be hard to wrap. Fold down the top edge over the ingredients, then fold up the bottom edge. Now you're ready to roll from left to right, tucking under the ingredients as you go. They're not always beautiful, but they're guaranteed to be yummy and packed with nutrients!

For the dipping sauce, here's a solid recipe to follow: Peanut Dipping Sauce. Or make your own, by combining natural peanut butter with a little water, a hint of sesame oil, as much chili paste as you can handle, minced garlic and minced ginger. The key is to thin out the peanut butter so that it has a better consistency for dipping. Keep adding until it tastes good to you!

Dinner is served! Drumroll please...

No comments:

Post a Comment