Chinese cabbage

Chinese cabbage
Chinese cabbage
Bok Choy.JPG
Brassica rapa chinensis, called "bok choy" in the United States
Species Brassica rapa
Cultivar group Chinensis, Pekinensis groups
Origin China, before the 15th Century
Cultivar group members many, see text
The images shown on this page are of the chinensis variety or "bok choy." For images of the pekinensis variety, see Napa cabbage.

Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa, subspecies pekinensis and chinensis) can refer to two distinct varieties (see below) of Chinese leaf vegetables used often in Chinese cuisine. These vegetables are both related to the Western cabbage, and are of the same species as the common turnip. Both have many variations in name, spelling and scientific classification–especially the "bok choy" or chinensis variety.



The Ming Dynasty pharmacologist Li Shizhen studied the Chinese cabbage[ambiguous] for its medicinal qualities. Before this time the Chinese cabbage was largely confined to the Yangtze River Delta region. The Chinese cabbage as it is known today is very similar to a variant cultivated in Zhejiang around the 14th century. During the following centuries, it became popular in northern China and the northern harvest soon exceeded the southern one. Northern cabbages were exported along the Grand Canal of China to Zhejiang and as far south as Guangdong.

They were introduced to Korea, where it became the staple vegetable for making kimchi. In the early 20th century, it was taken to Japan by returning soldiers who had fought in China during the Russo-Japanese War. At present, the Chinese cabbage is quite commonly found in markets throughout the world.


Bok Choy
Chinese name
Chinese 白菜 (小白菜)
Korean name
Hangul 배추
Napa Cabbage
Chinese name
Chinese 大白菜
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 黃芽白
Korean name
Hangul 배추

There are two distinctly different groups of Brassica rapa used as leaf vegetables in China, and a wide range of varieties within these two groups. The binomial name B. campestris is also used.


This group is the more common of the two, especially outside Asia; names such as napa cabbage, dà báicài (Chinese: 大白菜 lit. "large white vegetable"); Baguio pechay or pechay wombok (Tagalog); Chinese white cabbage; baechu (Korean), wongbok and hakusai (Japanese: 白菜) usually refer to members of this group. Pekinensis cabbages have broad green leaves with white petioles, tightly wrapped in a cylindrical formation and usually forming a compact head. As the group name indicates, this is particularly popular in northern China around Beijing (Peking).


Chinensis varieties do not form heads; instead, they have smooth, dark green leaf blades forming a cluster reminiscent of mustard or celery. Chinensis varieties are popular in southern China and Southeast Asia. Being winter-hardy, they are increasingly grown in Northern Europe. This group was originally classified as its own species under the name B. chinensis by Linnaeus.

Chinensis spelling and naming variations

Other than the ambiguous term "Chinese cabbage," the most widely used name in North America for the chinensis variety is bok choy (from Cantonese, literally "white vegetable"; also spelled pak choi, bok choi, and pak choy). In the UK, Australia, South Africa, and other Commonwealth Nations, the term pak choi is used. Less commonly, the descriptive English names Chinese chard, Chinese mustard, celery mustard, and spoon cabbage are also employed.

In Australia, the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries has redefined many of these names to refer to specific cultivars. In addition, they have introduced the word buk choy to refer to a specific kind of cabbage distinct from pak choy.[1][2]

In China, three terms are commonly used for this vegetable: the vast majority of Chinese (about 500 million) speak Mandarin, and for them the term is 油菜 yóu cài (literally "oil vegetable"), since most of the cooking oil in China is extracted from the seed of this plant; Shanghainese speakers (about 90 million in eastern China) use the term 青菜 qīng cài (literally "blue-green vegetable"); although the term 白菜 is pronounced "baak choi" in Cantonese, the same characters are pronounced "bái cài" by Mandarin speakers and used as the name for Napa cabbage which they call "Chinese cabbage" when speaking English.

Commercial variants of Chinensis

  • Pak choi (Chinese: 白菜; literally "white vegetable"); succulent, white stems with dark green leaves.
  • Choy sum (Chinese: 菜心; pinyin: càixīn; literally "vegetable heart"; Hokkien chai sim), this brassica refers to a small, delicate version of Pak choi. In appearance it is more similar to rapini or broccoli rabe, than the typical Pak choi. In English, it can also be called "Flowering Chinese Cabbage" due to the yellow flowers that comes with this particular vegetable. The term "choy sum" is sometimes used to describe the stem of any Chinese cabbage, or the soft inner core of a Pak choi with the tougher outer leaves removed.
  • Baby Pak choi, Shanghai Pak choi, or mei quin choi (Chinese: 上海白菜; pinyin: Shànghǎi báicài; Japanese: 青梗菜, chingensai) refers to greener varieties where the varioles are also green. It is simply a less-mature version that could develop into the white-stemmed variety with more time to grow before being harvested.[3] In Shanghai and other eastern China provinces, it is simply called qīngcài (青菜; literally blue/green vegetable) or qīngjiāngcài (青江菜; literally "blue/green river vegetable").

Nutritional Value

Chinese cabbage, raw
(chinensis, pak choi)
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 54 kJ (13 kcal)
Carbohydrates 2.2 g
- Dietary fiber 1.0 g
Fat 0.2 g
Protein 1.5 g
Vitamin A equiv. 243 μg (30%)
Vitamin A 4468 IU
Vitamin C 45 mg (54%)
Calcium 105 mg (11%)
Iron 0.80 mg (6%)
Magnesium 19 mg (5%)
Sodium 65 mg (4%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Pak choi contains a high amount of Vitamin A per 4 oz. serving - about 3500 IU.[4] Pak choi also contains approximately 50 mg of Vitamin C per 4 oz. serving.[4]

Toxic effects

Pak choi contains glucosinolates. These compounds have been reported to prevent cancer in small doses, but are toxic to humans in large doses. In 2009, an elderly woman who had been consuming 1 to 1.5 kg of raw Pak choi per day developed hypothyroidism, resulting in myxedema coma.[5] There are other milder symptoms from over-consumption of Pak choi, such as nausea, dizziness and indigestion in people with weaker digestive systems. Sometimes this is caused by not thoroughly cooking.


See also


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Chinese cabbage — ☆ Chinese cabbage n. any of several vegetables (Brassica pekinensis and B. chinensis) of the crucifer family, having long, narrow leaves in loose, cylindrical heads and tasting somewhat like cabbage …   English World dictionary

  • Chinese cabbage — noun count or uncount a vegetable with large, pale green leaves which have thick white STALKS. It can be cooked or eaten raw in salads …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Chinese cabbage — noun 1. plant with an elongated head of broad stalked leaves resembling celery; used as a vegetable in east Asia • Syn: ↑celery cabbage, ↑napa, ↑pe tsai, ↑Brassica rapa pekinensis • Hypernyms: ↑crucifer, ↑cruciferous plant …   Useful english dictionary

  • Chinese cabbage — a plant, Brassica rapa pekinensis, forming a long, dense head of broad, whitish leaves used in salads and Oriental cuisine. Also called celery cabbage, Chinese celery, napa, pe tsai. [1835 45, Amer.] * * * Either of two widely cultivated members… …   Universalium

  • Chinese cabbage — paprastojo bastučio kininis porūšis statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Bastutinių šeimos daržovinis kultūrinis augalas (Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis). atitikmenys: lot. Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis angl. bok choy; celery cabbage; celery… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • Chinese cabbage — UK / US noun [countable/uncountable] Word forms Chinese cabbage : singular Chinese cabbage plural Chinese cabbages Chinese leaves …   English dictionary

  • Chinese cabbage — napa apa n. A plant ({Brassica rapa} pekinensis) with an elongated celerylike head of broadstalked leaves used as a vegetable in east Asia; called also {Chinese cabbage}. Syn: Chinese cabbage, celery cabbage, pe tsai, {Brassica rapa} pekinensis.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Chinese cabbage — paprastojo bastučio pekininis porūšis statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Bastutinių šeimos daržovinis kultūrinis augalas (Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis). atitikmenys: lot. Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis angl. celery cabbage; Chinese… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • Chinese cabbage — noun a) Any East Asian leafy vegetable related to the Western cabbage, especially varieties of Brassica rapa. b) Bok choy. Syn: Brassica, rapa, chinensis, Chinese chard, Chinese mustard, celery mustard, spoon cabbage, pekinensis …   Wiktionary

  • Chinese cabbage — /tʃaɪniz ˈkæbɪdʒ / (say chuyneez kabij) noun a vegetable, Brassica rapa var. pekinensis, which is cabbage shaped but with crinkly leaves that are a lighter green than ordinary cabbage; wombok …  

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