Fun Jen Cabbage
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Fun Jen grows in conical heads and has loosely clustered stems that connect into semi-spreading, frilly leaves, averaging 15-25 centimeters in length. The elongated and slender, white stems are firm with a crunchy and aqueous consistency. The bright green to yellow-green leaves are tender and have ruffled edges with a soft, wrinkled texture across the surface. Both the leaves and stems of Fun Jen are edible raw or cooked and are delicate and crisp with a mild, sweet, and subtly tangy flavor.
Fun Jen is available year-round.
Fun Jen, botanically classified as Brassica rapa var. chinensis, is a loose-leaf, non-heading variety that belongs to the Brassicaceae or cabbage family. Also known as Wong Bok Fun Jen, Frilly Leaf Bok choy and Fun Jen Pai Tsai, Fun Jen is known for its frilly leaves and delicate, tender texture. Fun Jen is a specialty variety commonly used in home gardening as it is fast-growing, maturing in 35-45 days, is frost and heat tolerant, and can grow in small flower beds or containers. The ruffled cabbage is most popularly used in Taiwanese cuisine and is commonly incorporated raw into salads and sandwiches or lightly cooked in soups.
Fun Jen contains vitamins B and C, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, and selenium.
Fun Jen is best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as blanching, stir-frying, and steaming. When raw, the leaves can be used as a substitute for bread on sandwiches and wraps, or the fresh leaves can be chopped and tossed into green salads with other raw vegetables for a crisp texture. When cooked, Fun Jen is commonly simmered in soups or lightly stir-fried with other vegetables and meats for a healthy main course. The frilly-leafed green can also be pickled for a tangy, salty flavor or dried for extended use and reconstituted in soups. Fun Jen pairs well with basil, mint, green onions, garlic, sesame seeds, mung beans, peanuts, meats such as poultry, beef, pork, and fish, carrots, cucumber, and mushrooms. The stems and leaves will keep 2-3 days when stored in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
In Taipei, Taiwan, crowded night markets are filled with local food vendors selling a mix of dishes with umami, salty-sweet flavors. One of the most popular dishes, Taiwanese beef noodle soup, is considered to be Taiwan’s national dish and often contains braised beef, spices, noodles, and pickled greens such as Fu Jen. There is even an International Beef Noodle Festival held annually in Taipei that celebrates the many different variations of the soup and Fun Jen is commonly used as a fresh, crisp ingredient. Fu Jen is considered to be one of the most popular cabbage varieties in Taiwan and is also widely used in hot pot dishes. Favored for its tender, juicy consistency, Fun Jen is simmered with thinly sliced meats, noodles, and other vegetables for a savory meal.
The origins of Fun Jen are mostly unknown, but the greens are believed to be native to China. Through multiple generations of Chinese immigration, the frilly-leafed cabbage was introduced to Taiwan, and today it is one of the most popular cabbages used in soups and salads. Fun Jen can be found at local markets and in home gardens in Asia and Southeast Asia. Outside of Asia, the variety is predominately sold in seed form for home gardening use and can also be found in specialty grocers in Europe and the United States.
Recipes that include Fun Jen Cabbage. One is easiest, three is harder.
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