5 Napa Cabbage Soup Recipes to Help You Enjoy This Sweet Giant 北京白菜食谱

Chop them up for soup or use the big leaves for wrapping or layering. Napa cabbage can withstand long cooking. The longer it cooks, the softer and sweeter it becomes. 

The napa cabbage is known in Chinese as 北京白菜 (bei jing bai cai) or peking cabbage. So named because it was first found growing in Peking, the old name of Beijing, the current capital of China. It is also known as the celery cabbage and its scientific name is brassica pekinensis.

It should not be mistaken with the common green round cabbage, scientific name being Brassica oleracea. Celery cabbage or napa is cylindrical in shape with broad milky white stems and crinkly edged leaves.


The Chinese folk saying above extols the virtue of tofu and napa cabbage to keep us well.

It is indeed one of the most popular vegetables in East Asia. It is absolutely indispensable in Korea. A key ingredient in the world-renowned kimchi or pickled cabbage. The Koreans are so in love with kimchi that they even travel with jars of them.

Its value is justified. It is abundant in vitamin C and E. It contains loads of soluble fiber which aids bowel movements and digestion. It also lowers blood cholesterol and improves strength of blood vessels. All essentials for the winter season.

American scientists have also discovered an element in the vegetable that neutralizes the female hormone related to breast cancer. It is generally believed that frequent consumption can improve the skin, prevent breast cancer, and detoxify the body. It has also been touted to prevent piles and colon cancer.

Many variations exist with cross breeding and improvements.

A recent popular variation is a dwarf. Known in mandarin as the "wa wa" cabbage 娃娃菜, which literally means baby cabbage. It looks like a miniature version of the napa cabbage. It is a result of careful breeding and is grown in the high mountains with minimum pollution. The wa wa cabbage is more expensive but highly nutritious and sweet.

I love wawa cabbage steamed whole and drizzled liberally with a sauce made from superior stock. Ok, I'm starting to drool.

How to Prepare Napa Cabbage

Choose cabbage with firm crunchy leaves, tightly packed. Avoid those with limp and spotty leaves. Napa cabbage keeps quite well. Wrap in newspapers and store in the refrigerator.

The leaves are tightly packed together and should be separated before cooking. Wash and soak to remove any dirt and soil.

The leaves are big so they are frequently chopped up before cooking. Most of the time, they are chopped into thin strips but they can also be cut into squares or irregular shapes for stir-fry. Alternatively, you can use individual leaves as wrapping.

Unless most green leafy vegetables, napa cabbage can withstand long cooking. I like to use the whole leaves in hot pot. The longer it cooks, the softer and sweeter it becomes. That's not saying that napa cannot be used in quick soups.

Cabbage leaves absorb flavours readily. Pair it with ingredients with strong flavours such as in a soup with duck or stir fry with dried ikan bilis (small fishes) or shrimps.

1. Simple Napa Cabbage Soup

Here's a simple cabbage soup recipe to start you off. This is a very basic recipe. Add additional ingredients as variations.

It is also a suitable soup recipe for a 4 to 8 month old baby. Use a stick blender to puree the vegetables into a puree for easy feeding.


  • 1 leaf of napa cabbage
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 carrot
  • 400cc vegetable soup stock


  1. Rinse the cabbage leaf and onion and julienne
  2. Wash, peel and cut the carrot into small pieces
  3. Place the cabbage, onion and carrot into the stock
  4. Bring the stock to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are really soft

2. Napa Cabbage Soup With Glass Noodles

This mixed vegetable soup dish pairs napa cabbage and bean thread noodles / mung bean noodles with an assortment of other ingredients. Both ingredients are fairly cheap but bulky so this dish can go a long way. This is a recession-friendly recipe.

To enhance the flavour, sometimes I will add a small piece of fermented bean curd. Or substitute napa cabbage with the green round cabbage.


  • 100g napa cabbage
  • 30g carrot
  • 150g bean thread noodles, soaked till softened
  • 500ml stock
  • Salt
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil


  1. Wash the napa cabbage and cut into strips
  2. Peel the carrot and slice thinly
  3. Heat the cooking oil in a wok, add the napa cabbage and carrot
  4. Fry the vegetables for 1 minute
  5. Add the stock and the cellophane noodle
  6. Bring back to a boil and simmer until the cabbage is soft and sweet
  7. Add salt to taste
  8. Serve

3. Pork and Napa Cabbage Soup (Paleo)

I found this pork and napa cabbage soup video online by Michelle Tam. It pairs the cabbage with ground pork, carrot and Chinese mushrooms. It represents quintessential simple Chinese cooking. The full recipe is available at https://nomnompaleo.com/post/153203159908/pork-and-napa-cabbage-soup

4. Boiled Napa Cabbage Wrap in Soup

Lastly, I want to introduce this pork cabbage roll soup by Garden Time homemade cuisine.

It uses boiled napa cabbage leaves to wrap a portion of ground pork and tofu. The cabbage rolls are then simmered in a big pot. They can served in the pot itself or individually in smaller bowls. 

5. Mille-Feuille Nabe

Nabe is the Japanese name for hot pot. Mille-feuille refers to many layers. This dish is made up of layers of napa cabbage leaves alternate with pork belly slices.

It looks complicated but is actually quite straightforward to put together, unlike the actual dessert of the same namesake. 

A version made with beef slices. 

Happy Souping, Phoebe

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