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+ servings
Japanese-style Pickled Nappa Cabbage
Prep Time
15 mins
Drying & Pickling
6 d 4 hrs
Total Time
6 d 4 hrs 15 mins

This is a serious Japanese method for Pickled Nappa Cabbage, but it is easy to follow. Nappa cabbage is the same as Chinese cabbage. Pickled with just salt, konbu, chilli and lemon rind (optional), it is quite easy to make. But it takes 7 days before you can enjoy one of the most typical Japanese pickled dishes.

Recipe Type: Side
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: japanese pickles, pickled Chinese cabbage
Serves: 10 + as a side
Author: Yumiko
Ingredients (tbsp=15ml, cup=250ml)
  • ½ Chinese cabbage (mine was 1.2kg / 2.6lb after semi-drying, note 1)
  • 36g / 1.3oz salt (note 2)
  • 1-2 dried chilli finely sliced (note 3)
  • 1 sheet konbu (5cm x 10xm / 2” x 4”) cut to thin strips
  • ½ lemon zest pieces (optional)
  • 1 non-metal deep and large container (with a lid if possible, note 4)
  • 1 plate that is little bit smaller than the opening of the container
  • 1 weight that is twice as heavy as the weight of the cabbage (Weight 1, note 5)
  • 1 weight that weighs the same as the cabbage (Weight 2, note 5)
  1. Halve the Chinese cabbage vertically (note 6) to have two quarters of cabbage wedges.

  2. Place the cabbage wedges on paper (baking paper, newspaper, etc) and dry them in the sun for ½ day (note 7).

  3. Weigh the cabbage and calculate the quantity of salt required (note 2).

  1. Lightly rinse the Chinese cabbage and pat dry outside.

  2. Sprinkle some salt on the bottom of the container. Sprinkle 1/3 of the konbu, chilli and lemon rind.

  3. Take a wedge of the Chinese cabbage and sprinkle some salt between the stalks, particularly the bottom part where the white stalks are thick. I do this in the container.

  4. Sprinkle the salt around the cabbage and rub, then place the cabbage in the container/pot, cut side down.

  5. Repeat for the other cabbage wedge and place next to the first wedge in the opposite direction so that the tip of the cabbage wedge meets the stem-end of the first cabbage (note 8).

  6. Scatter the remaining ingredients, including salt over the cabbage.

  7. Place the plate over the cabbage and press down.
  8. Place Weight 1 on the plate and place the lid on or cover with cling wrap. Leave it in the dark cool/cold place for 3 days.

  9. You should see water has risen in the container (note 9). Replace the weight with Weight 2, place the lid on or cover with cling wrap and leave for further 3 days.

  1. Transfer the pickled cabbage with the liquid to a smaller container or a zip lock bag and keep in the fridge until required.
  1. Lightly rinse the cabbage (note 10) and squeeze the water out.

  2. Place the cabbage on the cutting board, trim the end of the stem off and cut it into 4cm wide pieces.

  3. Squeeze residual water out of each bunch of cabbage pieces and transfer to the serving plate/bowl. Scatter with the julienned lemon rind if you want.

Recipe Notes

1. I forgot to weigh the cabbage before drying but it does not matter really, as the weight after semi-drying is the key and the amount of the most important pickling ingredient, salt, is worked out from the semi-dried cabbage.

2. You will need 3% of the weight of the Chinese cabbage after semi-drying.

3. If you prefer less spicy, use 1 stalk.

4. You need to be able to place the two Chinese cabbage wedges snuggly at the bottom of the container. I used an enamelled cast iron pot.

Metal container without coating should be avoided because the salty and sour liquid is not good for it.

5. Anything is fine as long as they can be placed steadily on the plate to press on the cabbage.
I needed 2.4kg / 5.3lb (Weight 1) and 1.2kg / 2.6lb (Weight 2) of the weights. The lid of my cast iron pot was 1.9kg / 4.2lb. So I used a glass bowl that weighed 500g / 1.1lb in addition to that. For 1.2kg / 2.6lb weight, I filled water in the glass bowl with a lid.

6. If your cabbage is very thick, you may cut it into 3 wedges vertically.
See the steps in the section, HOW TO CUT THE CABBAGE VERTICALLY FOR PICKLING, to avoid soft leaves chopped off and detached from the stem.

7. If cloudy and no sunshine, leave for 5-6 hours.

8. It is important to fill the area with the cabbage without leaving spaces.

9. From the 2nd day, you should see water starts coming up. If it does not, increase the weight or add a small amount of water to the container.

10. I did not remove the konbu and chilli pieces that came with the pickled cabbages. I removed the lemon rind pieces but julienned some to scatter them on the top.