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Napa Cabbage

July 5, 2011

We lived in Georgia when I was a little girl and one of my favorite places to go in the early 1980’s was Babyland General, the birthplace (literally!) of Cabbage Patch Dolls. We would go there on field trips and watch women and men in nurses’ and doctors’ outfits pull dolls out of cloth cabbage gardens. It was delightful and not weird. Then, at least. Now, I’m surprised that I never thought about the ingenuity it took to imagine this world. Babyland General has recently moved to a new location, so even if I were to go back, it would be different.

I think about regular cabbage a lot more than I think about Cabbage Patch Dolls now and have posted many, many recipes for the stuff. Just search “cabbage” at the box to your right to find some of them.

There are 4 primary types of cabbage we use these days: green cabbage, red (actually, it’s purple) cabbage, Napa cabbage, and Savoy cabbage. Then, sometimes people say “Asian cabbage,” and I start to get confused.

I get confused a lot–and maybe you do, too (or, probably more realistically, you don’t think about it too much, which is completely fine)–about the difference between Savoy and Napa cabbage. “Which is which?” I wonder when a recipe calls for one. Usually there’s not an explanation.

This is Napa Cabbage. It is also sometimes called Chinese Cabbage, especially in a trade deficit. (That was a joke.)


(This image was originally posted to Flickr by Drab Makyo at It was reviewed on 10:04, 18 September 2007 (UTC) by the FlickreviewR robot and confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.)

And here is an image of a Savoy Cabbage.

I have had success substituting cabbages for each other in many recipes. Napa cabbage, however is more watery than the other types (and the other types have a lot of water in them!) and also has a shorter shelf life. And red/purple cabbage will impart a purple hue to whatever it’s cooked (or slawed) with, so it’s one to be careful with.

We got Napa Cabbage in our pick-up last week and it was so huge it took up 1/2 of one shelf! We used it in all kinds of things, but some of our favorites were Hot & Sour Slaw and Beef & Cabbage Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce both from Eating Well Magazine.

The slaw was especially good with some whitefish sandwiches Justin made and since Justin often cooks without a recipe, I can’t pass it along. But you could make your own favorite fish sandwich and put some slaw on it for a wonderfully Asian-inspired lunch!

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