There is cabbage, and then there are other kinds of cabbages. The most popular cabbage we know is the round, pale green vegetable that we commonly find in our nilagang baka, pochero, pesang isda, and as rolls with meat inside.
The cabbage, known locally as repolyo, is an easy vegetable to prepare and eat, but there’s another cabbage that is growing in popularity. This is the Chinese cabbage. It’s the cabbage used in kimchi, the pickled spicy cabbage from Korea that is a favorite side dish for those who love K-pop and watch K-dramas.
If you’re not sure how a Chinese cabbage is different from a regular cabbage, here’s how to tell the difference:
1 The Chinese cabbage is not a “cabbage”.
The cabbage and Chinese cabbage are not the same at all. The Chinese cabbage is actually closer to the bok choy or pechay which might be why it’s also known as a pechay Baguio or Baguio pechay. Its scientific name is Brassica rapa and is known as a celery cabbage. However, since it has similar characteristics as the main family branch of the cabbage, it’s no wonder that it’s commonly mistaken for being a cabbage!
2 Cabbage is round. Chinese cabbage is long.
The typical cabbage that we know is round and covered is smooth light green leaves. It’s a tightly wrapped, leafy green vegetable that has cousins that can also be found in a purple and a pale green, almost white, variant. A whole cabbage is known as a “head”, and this is evident by the shape and size of the vegetable: it’s round and can be as big as someone’s head!
The Chinese cabbage, also known as the napa cabbage, is an elongated version of the regular cabbage but leafier. This is still a moderately tightly wrapped vegetable but its leaves are longer to create a longer shape. Each leaf ends in green to light green or even yellow-green leaves. These frilly or ruffled leaves branch out to cover and protect the inner leaves.
The cabbage leaves have firmer leaves than the Chinese cabbage. In fact, the leaves have an almost rubbery texture to them that makes gripping the vegetable easy, especially when you have to slice a head of cabbage in half!
3 Cabbage is more bitter than Chinese cabbage.
If you’re thinking of using Chinese cabbage, this long cabbage has a large and thick fibrous stem. One might think that the stem would be tough but it’s actually tender. It’s more watery and mild in flavor than the strong bitter and peppery taste of the cabbage. This makes it easy to add to other dishes that won’t be affected by the taste of the cabbage.