Napa Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage
A Popular Ingredient In Thai
When you talk of Thai food ingredients,
there is an interesting scenario these days. Many of the traditional
ingredients used in Thai food might have had their origin in nearby
countries like, Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia. At the same time,
many traditional Thai food ingredients have been adopted by cooks
from other countries too. For example, we now hear names like fusion
food in many Asian countries. In India fusion Indian food
often combines, flavoring agents and even main ingredients from
countries like Thailand.
The Napa cabbage has many names, Chinese
leaves and even Chinese cabbage and Celery Cabbage or some
of these. The Thais refer to napa cabbage as 'phak khat khao' but,
most supermarkets in Thailand have the name napa cabbage printed in
English, the Thai name is generally printed in Thai language. In
this report on Napa cabbage we will use the following names to mean
the same vegetable:
Phak-Khat-Khao (local Thai) / Napa
Cabbage (used in U.S) / Chinese Cabbage or Chinese Leaves /
|Chinese cabbage or napa cabbage is a common
ingredient in Thai food dishes. This variety of cabbage has
many other names too - some of these names are mentioned in
this report. Yellowish or brownish, spots or marks on napa
cabbage do not mean that there is something wrong about the
vegetable. Chinese or napa cabbage can be stored in the
regrigrator for about 8 to 10 days.
The Thais use napa cabbage as an
ingredient in many dishes including soups. When you talk about Thai
vegetarian food dishes, Chinese leaves or Chinese cabbage is an
almost mandatory ingredient in the sauteed vegetables dish. It is
not uncommon for Thai food dishes related to noodles to have napa
cabbage as an ingredient. Besides using Phak-Khat-Khao as an
ingredient, the Thais also consume it raw along with many spicey
dishes. There are three varieties of Celery leaves of Chinese
cabbage. The difference is basically in the length of the vegetable
and also in the tightness with which the leaves are wrapped
together. Fortunately, the flavor and even the way to cook the
different varieties of Chinese leaves remains the same.
You can get a faint aroma of cabbage when
you eat cerely leaves raw but, once you cook them the cabbage flavor
is generally not present. On their own napa cabbage has a sweet and
gentle aroma, this remains the same across the leaves and the stalk.
The white stalk that runs through (backbone) of each of the leaves
is rather stiff and crunchy and it retains, this texture even after
being cooked. The delicate flavor of the napa cabbage remains even
after being cooked, it is a vegetable that maintains it's flavor no
matter how it is cooked.
In Thai food dishes, Chinese cabbage is
used as an ingredient in stir-fried dishes, soups, salads and stews.
You will rarely find napa cabbage leaves cut into small pieces, the
larger pieces probably retain vitamins and minerals better. The
Thais generally do not wash the phak-khat-khao leaves, but it might
be a good idea to do so if you plan to eat the leaves like, in the
form of a salad. If you plan to cut the celery cabbage leaves into
pieces, it is a good idea to finish the washing before cutting them.
Dietary experts suggest that this method helps better retain the
nutritional elements of the vegetable. If you order roasted meat or
duck in Thailand, you might get a few braised napa cabbage leaves
placed at the bottom of the dish. This is a truly diverse vegetable
and has applications in a number of Thai food recipes.
Before you start using the Chinese
cabbage, you will need to do some very basic preparatory work. First
of all, slice off the root portion of the vegetable. It is a good
idea to discard the first layer of leaves the napa cabbage. If
you do not plan to use the entire celery cabbage in one session, cut
off only as much as you need. We did mention that if washing is to
be done, doing it before the cutting process will ensure that
substantial vitamin and mineral contents are not washed away.
Cook Chinese leaves with any other
ingredient be it, fish, meat, vegetables, poultry or shellfish, the
vegetable willingly absorbs the flavor of these other ingredients.
At the same time, the typical gentle flavor of the napa cabbage is
also retained to tickle your taste buds. Stir frying Chinese cabbage
in heated oil often brings an interesting change to the leaves, you
might notice dark scorch marks on the leaves. This is quite normal
so do not, doubt your cooking skills. Professional restaurant cooks
have an interesting secret but, we will reveal it right here. They
first blanch the phak-khat-khao leaves in boiling stock and then do
the frying process. This adds an interesting flavor to the
vegetable. You can try this small trick when using fried napa
cabbage leaves in your favorite dish.
Despite their delicate appearance, napa
cabbages can be stored for as long as 10-12 days in the salad
compartment of your refrigerator. And it is perfectly okay if they
develop some blackish spots after a few days. In many Thai homes,
stored Chinese cabbage is used for dishes that require the vegetable
to be quicked, salads are generally made with fresher Chinese
cabbage. You might keep this in mind if you want to cook your Thai
food like a real pro!
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