Cabbage Is The Unconventional Ingredient That Adds Fresh Texture To Ramen

When it comes to Asian-style noodles, you could argue that ramen rules the roost. Originally from China, the Japanese eventually adopted these thin wheat noodles as their own and made them central to their national identity. You can find ramen shops throughout the buzzing cities and quiet towns up and down the archipelago, each serving up its own version of the steaming bowl. From Kyushu-style tonkotsu (pork bone broth) to Tokyo's traditional shoyu (soy) to Sapporo's miso-flavored ramen, each of Japan's regions has its own take on the iconic dish, which not only includes different styles of broth, but also an array of other goodies tossed in.

Though the most common ramen toppings include pork belly, fish cake, scallions, seaweed, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, and soft-boiled eggs, a humbler, perhaps unexpected additive has recently found its way to the table: cabbage. Cooking this simple, cheap, crunchy vegetable for just a few minutes before incorporating it into your ramen broth can add a sweet firmness that fills out the bowl, helping bring it all to life. 

A ramen game changer?

Ramen is renowned for its savory qualities coming from ingredients such as fatty pork, soy, and miso. But this richness needs the balance of fresh additions, and cabbage is a great way to counteract all that oil and salt. Whether you're talking napa, bok choy, or savoy, this age-old plant is a member of the Brassica genus of vegetables that includes broccoli, kale, rutabaga, turnips, and Brussels sprouts. While it's been cultivated for thousands of years, it's only recently made its way into the ramen bowl, but its addition has been a welcome one.

Aside from being packed with flavor, cabbage is bursting with nutrients, including vitamins C, K, and B6. Healthline reports that cabbage is not only great for heart health, but can also keep inflammation in check, while also aiding in digestion and blood pressure management. Referred to as kyabetsu in Japan, cabbage's firm, crunchy texture adds body to the dish. While mild overall, it's also surprisingly rich, with just a hint of sweetness that adds another layer of complexity to your ramen bowl. The fact that it's a leafy green also means that your broth will be imbued with a pleasant hint of crunch. To top it off, cabbage acts as the perfect flavor sponge, soaking up all that savory goodness in one juicy mass. All of this adds up to a perfect addition to your toolkit of ramen toppings, so next time you boil up those noodles, why not give cabbage a go?