Chinese cabbage, Celery cabbage, Napa cabbage, Tientsin cabbage, wong nga bok.
Womboks are known to have been cultivated in China since the 5th Century and remain one of the most popular vegetables in Asia. There are tens if not hundreds of varieties, ranging from compact round barrels to long, slim cylinders and many shapes in-between.
While most varieties do best under cool conditions, they can be grown at various times of year in every state of Australia. Womboks are field grown and harvested when the heads are firm and appear mature. Under ideal conditions (high humidity, 0oC) womboks can be kept with little loss of quality for up to 2 months. Stored in a loosely closed plastic bag in the home refrigerator the inner leaves can stay fresh for several weeks.
Womboks have a sweet, mild flavour which is quite different to European cabbage. While the green leaves can be slightly peppery, the thick white ribs are sweet and juicy. The inner leaves have been protected from the sun, so are particularly tender and succulent.
There is almost no end to the ways wombok can be used. Its sweet flavour and crunchy texture make it perfect for use in a coleslaw, or as a change from shredded lettuce on a sandwich or hamburger. Shredded wombok is also a key ingredient in dumplings and rolls. The famous Korean relish kim chee is made from wombok pickled in salt, garlic and chilli. It can also be boiled in a soup, braised in a casserole, or stir fried with other ingredients. The leaves can be used as wrappers for other foods during steaming. As it absorbs flavours during cooking, it is equally at home in a spicy meat dish or a delicately flavoured stir fry with fish or tofu.