I've seen Chinese cabbages on rooftops, on the ground, on sidewalks and nearly everywhere in China, especially in the mid to northern parts of China. Never saw them anywhere in Napa Valley so I wonder why they call them Napa cabbages in the States.They got them right in Australia, almost. Chinese cabbages are "wong nga bak" in the Cantonese dialect, so the cabbages should be "wongbak" and not "wongbok".
Chinese cabbages are versatile because they can be fried plain or with other ingredients, chopped & wrapped in jiaozi, pickled in salt and vinegar or kim chi-style, boiled in soups and stews and when you run out of ideas, steamed. Steamed Chinese cabbage can taste rather bland but is refreshing if the meal is rich and heavy. You can cut the cabbage up before steaming. It'll cook faster but it's a neater presentation if you serve a whole cabbage and cut it just before serving. Make sure you get the smaller cabbages or you'll have too much cabbage to chew. Australian wongboks are as big as watermelons while typical Chinese cabbages are slimmer. You can add a topping of Chinese ham strips (I'm only using the ham to brighten up the photos) or fried shallots but unadorned is just as good. This dish is meant to be light so season very lightly with salt or leave the salt out. Never add oil.
Steamed Whole Chinese Cabbage
1 Chinese cabbage, halved lengthwise or 1/2 a large cabbage (but not too large)
3-4 cloves peeled garlic, smashed
1/2 cup chicken broth + 2 T cornstarch
1/4 cup Chinese ham, in thin strips, marinaded with 1 T shao xin wine & pinch of sugar & steamed 5 minutes (steam this in a bowl with the cabbage)
1/4 cup shallots, sliced thinly and fried until crispy in veg oil
a pinch of salt
a pinch of salt
1. Wash the cabbage without beaking off the leaves. Drain well by shaking off the water. Put cabbage on a heat-proof plate and stuff the smashed garlic in between the leaves (sprinkle some salt over if like) and steam in medium high heat for about 30 minutes, depending on the texture you want. Most people like it real soft.
2. If you prefer a thicker and tastier sauce, pour away all the liquid from the steamed cabbage. Put the chicken broth + cornstarch to boil, stirring well until thickened. Don't make the sauce gluey thick. It should be slightly thick. Add the steamed ham if using. Pour the sauce over the steamed cabbage and serve. Or just top with crispy shallots, or leave plain.
3. Cut into neat smaller pieces just before serving.