Talking heads

Chinese cabbage, which is also known as napa cabbage, doesn't bear much resemblance to its cousin, the head cabbage. The latter looks vaguely like a head of iceberg lettuce, although the leaves are waxier, thicker and much firmer. Chinese cabbage has longer leaves that are less waxy and more delicate, and the flavour is more subtle. Although available year-round, the flavour of this cabbage is sweeter when it's grown in colder weather. Depending on the variety, the cabbage can be long and thin or short and squat. With all types, choose heads that are firm and have tightly packed leaves.

This cabbage is popular in Korea, where it's made into the most widely known version of kimchee. To do so, cut the heads of cabbage in half lengthwise, sprinkle salt between the leaves (this draws out the excess moisture and softens the leaves) and leave to drain for several hours or overnight. Rinse well then squeeze the moisture from the leaves. Make a thick, spicy paste by mixing Korean red pepper powder, rice vinegar, salted anchovies, grated ginger, thinly sliced cutlass fish, shredded white radish, carrot and Asian pear, and chopped garlic, spring onion, watercress and garlic chives. Spread some of the mixture over the outside of each half-head of cabbage and between the leaves, then roll the head as tightly as possible starting at the base. Place the kimchee in a glass or earthenware jar. It can be eaten fresh but for more complex flavours, leave the kimchee to ferment in the fridge for a couple of weeks, occasionally removing the lid so any built-up gas in the jar can escape.

For gyoza (Japanese dumplings), Chinese cabbage is finely chopped then mixed with pork, soy sauce, mirin, garlic and spring onion before being wrapped in thin, round skin. Seal the edges of the dumplings tightly so the filling doesn't leak. Heat some oil in a skillet, add the dumplings and pan fry until the bottoms are brown and crusty. Add a little water to the pan, put the lid on and cook the dumplings for several minutes. Remove the lid and cook until the water evaporates and the bottoms become crisp again, then invert the dumplings onto a platter. Serve with a dipping sauce made with soy sauce, vinegar and chilli oil.