Traditional and fusion cooking styles, regional and international
ingredients and a new awareness of healthy eating are all factors
contributing to an exciting time for Chinese cuisine.
An emperor and his favorite consort used to admire a delicately
carved ornament made of jade that was probably part of her dowry. It is a
miniature head of humble cabbage, with a crisp white base and
translucent frilled green leaves with two tiny insects resting on the
The emperor was Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and this
famous piece of jade is called the Jade Cabbage, currently one of the
main exhibits of the Palace Museum in Taipei. It was taken from Yonghe
Palace in the Forbidden City, the imperial quarters of the consort
This exquisite and valuable piece of art lauds one of the most common
vegetables in China, while representing wishes for good harvests and
The Chinese cabbage is planted all over China, in all seasons, but it
is in the cold northeastern provinces that it grows large and sweet and
tender, and plays a starring role in the cuisine.
Whole cabbages are bought and stored for the long winter months,
piled outside in courtyards and on balconies. Together with the huge
Shandong leeks, it is one of the vegetables that will fill the winter
Huge truckloads of white cabbages roll into Beijing around October
and November, plentiful and cheap. So cheap, in fact, that "as
affordable as white cabbages" has become a popular term for a great
Wise housewives load their shopping trolleys full of huge cabbages, often topped with a super huge bunch of leeks.
The vegetables are carted home and neatly arranged on the balcony, or
in a sheltered part of the garden. Sometimes an old blanket is thrown
over the pile to deter open thievery by either the two-legged or
This has been a winter ritual for a very long time, from when times were hard and logistics were limited.