An extremely popular choice of vegetable among Singaporeans, the Nai Bai is a variation of the Bok Choy. It is also commonly known as the Milk Cabbage for speakers of other languages. It is not surprising as the literal translation of this vegetable is ‘milk white’. Derived from its noticeably white stems, Nai Bai can easily be spotted amongst a pile of green vegetables because of this characteristic. Despite it’s name, however, its leaves are dark green (and crinkled).

The Nai Bai has Chinese origins but has now spread throughout Asia, and have since developed a wide range of variety. Though popular, most people don’t exactly know the name of this vegetable and sometimes call it the White Stem Cai Xin.

Also Known As

White Baby Pak Choy

Nai Bai You Cai

Celery Mustard

Chinese Chard

Chinese White Cabbage

Spoon Shaped Bok Choy

Milk Cabbage

Dwarf Pak Choy

Boy Choy Sum

Flavor Profile

The Nai Bai generally has a mild and sweet flavor, with its younger leaves having a tinge of mustardy flavor. A smaller variation of the Xiao Bai Cai, the Nai Bai is also softer and sweeter. Do not underestimate this little head of vegetable as not many vegetables can boast that it is both leafy and crunchy at the same time after cooking, but the Nai Bai most definitely can!

Few, if not none, have complained of it being bitter. If you encounter a head of bitter Nai Bai, you can be sure that you are tasting the chemicals used in the growing process and should consider getting organic ones instead.

Nutritious Benefits

Being a variation of the Bok Choy, the Nai Bai has similar nutritional properties when consumed:

i) Vitamins – Like the Cai XinKai Lan, and the Bayam, the Nai Bai is also rich in Vitamin A, C and K.

ii) Minerals – The Nai Bai is rich in calcium, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, iron and magnesium. Potassium is an important electrolyte in the cell and body fluids that helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is required for the red blood cell formation.

iii) Others – High in antioxidants, these compounds in the Nai Bai will help to protect against breast, colon, and prostate cancers. It can also help to reduce LDL or “bad cholesterol” levels in the blood.

Choosing the Nai Bai

Almost always the same as choosing all kinds of green leafy vegetables, look out for strong healthy stalks. For the Nai Bai, make sure that the stalks are firm and not limp. Avoid discolored, yellowish-green leaves as this mean that they are old and lacking in nutrients. Holes in the leaves are normal and a sign that no chemicals were used in the farming process.

Consuming the Nai Bai

Another reason for the popularity of the Nai Bai is that it is simple to prepare and cook. Simply remove discolored leaves and run it under cold water to remove dirt between the stalks. Turn it over to dry it and it is ready to be cooked! Due to its relatively small size, many prefer to cook the Nai Bai whole instead of chopping them up. However, chopping them up is starting to become more common these days.

The Nai Bai is popular in stir-frys, soups, noodles, meat dishes, and salads. It is usually cooked with garlic, ginger, and/or oyster sauce.

Sources: KitazawaSeed, Nutrition and You

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