Sunday, January 18, 2009


The cheap humble cabbage that we have in New Zealand wasn't always cheap to me. Growing up in Sarawak, we only had cabbage during Chinese New Year. It's rarity was caused by the distance of Sarawak from China or Singapore.  Even in the late 1977, it took more than three days for a ship to arrive from Singapore to Sibu. Besides, we also ate a lot of vegetables grown by Mum and Dad, and occasionally by Grand Dad.
Our vegetables were always cooked with thin slivers of pork. My Dad had this saying, "Even when the pig walks past, makes a lot of difference." I don't know if he made it up. But when I went to Singapore, I found that the cooks prepare a lot of their veg without meat. I guess because vegetarainism was getting popular. So I acquired the habit of separating my veg from my meat dish.
Mum also used cabbage for her famous pickle, achar. This pickle is made during Chinese New year. in retrospect, I think it is because cabbages were imported at that time in bigger quantities.
In Singapore, most of the veg comes from Cameron Highlands and from China. My mother-in-law likes to soak her vegs for hours to rid the pesticides. I didn't understand why she did it ,having a little knowledge of secondry school science of Osmosis. I queried the water engineer, and his reasoning was during the soaking, the water diluted the pesticides, only minute quantities get absorbed. So when my mother-in-law comes to visit, I make sure I soak my veg.
One day, I soaked my beans to death. My Sister Rose said the beans were soggy and ruin. So now, I compromise, and wash them in a big tub of water. It is better to plant your own veg, so you know what you are eating.
In New Zealand, cabbages and carrots are the common veg among the Pakehas.  I don't boil the cabbage to death, like they do. Just cut them into small pieces and a quick stir fry in garlic fried in soya oil. So you have a crunch in you cbbage.
I also shred and cook them to make stuffings for my Chinese spring rolls, and Vietnamese paper rolls. First we discard the outer green leaves.
In Singapore, during my donation exercise ,"Foodsale" I  cooked a veg curry, with cabbage, beans, brinjals,tomatoes, okra and so on. My friends say it is good, but I never eat them. I don't like mushy mushy veg. For parties, I often bring a big bowl of cole slaw made with my own New Zealand mayonnaise and finely shredded cabbage, carrots and raisins.
I read some where red cabbage is very good for you. So for a season, I ate red cabbage salad with apple cider vinegar. I ate the salad everyday until I got sick/scared of it. I haven't made any since then. Strangely, Margaret's husband Teo was making his red cabbage salad as his signature dish.
I subscribe to Dr. Mercola and Dr. Weil and I read quite a bit on the internet. Cabbages are cruciferous veg which has compounds called isothiocyanates which we believe to be responsible for the cancer-preventive and anti-carcinogenic activities in these vegetables.  It is rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, which are linked to heart health.
There are other cabbages like the Chinese Cabbage, won bak or napa cabbage, used by the Korean to make their kimchi. I will post this later.

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