Dialects or place names of numerous East and Southeastern Asian nations are used for exactly the same leafy vegetables, depending on the shop, market or country in which they’re sold. Western cabbages are subspecies of the species Brassica oleracea. Oriental “cabbages” are all subspecies of Brassica rapa, a plant species which contains turnips and mustards.
Naming Asian Vegetables
While many cultural, local and descriptive phrases are used to describe Asian leafy vegetables which produce heads, hence the western name “cabbage,” the Chinese name is typically used in texts which trace taxonomic or scientific titles. The Mandarin Chinese phrase “tsai”along with the Cantonese Chinese phrase “choy,” sometimes spelled choi, both imply “vegetable” Add the prefix “pai” into “tsai” and you get “white vegetable” Western spellings of Oriental words vary substantially, adding to the difficulty of trying to identify individuals offered in Western markets and also exploded in Western gardens.
Vietnamese growers and sellers unfamiliar with taxonomy and name sources may well call a familiar cabbage “Vietnamese cabbage.” For them it is a Vietnamese cabbage. A grower in Cambodia may well call the same cabbage “Cambodian cabbage.” A Vietnamese cabbage is the most likely one of two varieties of Chinese cabbage (B. rapa var. pekinensis). The Napa or won bok variety forms a brief, barrel-shaped head about 5 inches wide by 12 inches tall. The chihli variety forms stretched heads around 4 inches wide by 18 inches high. Vietnamese cabbage may also be among many subspecies of bak choi or pak choi (Brassica rapa var. Chinensis) which have dark green leaves on short, thick petioles or leaf stems which may be light green or white.
Chinese cabbage may also be called celery cabbage; Chinese white cabbage; napa cabbage; hakusai cabbage, the Japanese name; bow amount and bok choy, Cantonese Chinese names; and hsin pei tsai or pao, Mandarin Chinese names. The name “Napa cabbage” is widely believed to come from Napa County, California, in which it was first grown commercially, but it may also be out of “nappa,” the Japanese word to the cabbage. It is a pale yellow-green with leaves which are frilly in the edges. Chinese cabbage has a milder, more delicate flavor than Western cabbage and is eaten raw in salads or will be the final ingredient added to your stir fry.
Bak Choy or even Pak Choy
Varieties of bak choy or pak choy include choy sum (B. rapa var purpurea); yu choy, more fragile and sweeter than bok choy; gai choy (B. juncea); plus tai choy (B. chinesis). Those with white petioles include joi choy and tsaisai. Forms with green petioles consist of pak-choy green, mei qing choy and Oriental pak choy green.