Chinese cabbage

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Chinese cabbage
Bok Choy.JPG
Brassica rapa chinensis, called "bok choy" in the United States
SpeciesBrassica rapa
Cultivar groupChinensis, Pekinensis groups
OriginChina, before the 15th Century
Cultivar group membersmany, see text
Jump to: navigation, search
Chinese cabbage
Bok Choy.JPG
Brassica rapa chinensis, called "bok choy" in the United States
SpeciesBrassica rapa
Cultivar groupChinensis, Pekinensis groups
OriginChina, before the 15th Century
Cultivar group membersmany, see text

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 herbalist 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. The Chinese cabbage is now commonly found in markets throughout the world.


Napa Cabbage
Chinese name
Alternative Chinese name
Korean name
Green pak choi
Brassica rapa var. chinensis (leaf).jpg
Chinese name
Korean name

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 petsay or petsay wombok (Tagalog); Chinese white cabbage; "wong a pak" (hokkein); baechu (Korean), wongbok and hakusai (Japanese: 白菜 or ハクサイ) 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 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

Nutritional value

Chinese cabbage, raw
(chinensis, pak choi)
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy54 kJ (13 kcal)
Carbohydrates2.2 g
- Dietary fiber1.0 g
Fat0.2 g
Protein1.5 g
Vitamin A equiv.243 μg (30%)
Vitamin A4468 IU
Vitamin C45 mg (54%)
Calcium105 mg (11%)
Iron0.80 mg (6%)
Magnesium19 mg (5%)
Sodium65 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