Just after I published my last post about the preparations for winter here in Dalian, I realised I forgot to cover what’s been going on here the last few weeks. Namely, I’ve seen a lot of cabbage. And I mean A LOT. One day we arrived at my parents-in-law’s home to see over 50 big 大白菜 cabbages laid out on the floor. Then there’s the cabbage truck which has been arriving in our 小区 compound with a whole truck full of cabbages, and leaving with them all gone. I think everyone except us must have bought some, and most people bought almost as many as my mother-in-law.
Well I’ve been lead to believe that all the cabbages are in fact to make 酸菜 suancai, or pickled/preserved cabbage. Chinese sauerkraut it’s referred to on Wikipedia. It’s a big deal in the 东北 North East of China. I suppose in days gone by, when fruit and vegetables were very much seasonal, vegetables were much scarcer in winter, and preserving the vegetables was necessary to have some green on your plate during the cold winter months.
As my mother-in-law told me, in this region, it’s made from soaking the cabbage leaves in salt water for a month or so, using a large clay barrel. In other regions, chillis and spices are involved too. It’s not the only vegetable that’s preserved, I’ve seen quite a lot of people drying out their Chinese radishes to be pickled too.
Traditionally it is then used in pork dishes, to make warming winter pork stew (冻豆腐 frozen tofu for me), often with 粉条 vermicelli. Having seen how much my mother-in-law has made, no doubt quite a bit will come our way when it’s ready. I just hope I like it!
Have you seen this phenomenon where you are? Will I like Chinese sauerkraut?