Saku SakuSalad Cabbage
Saku Saku (Brassica oleracea var. capitata)
Crunchy, crisp and refreshing, saku saku is arguably one of the most versatile vegetables in Japanese cooking.
Saku saku means “crispy” in Japanese, and as its name suggests, this cabbage variety gives you a delightfully fresh crunch when biting into its snappy green leaves.
Saku saku is an excellent source of vitamins U andC as well as isothiocyanate – a detoxifying and cancer-preventative compound found in cruciferous vegetables. It is also rich in calcium compared to other vegetables and especially leafy greens. Eating saku saku raw is the best way to maximize its health benefits, as the isothiocyanate and vitamins easily decompose when exposed to heat, which is why it is commonly eaten with tonkatsu.
Cooking with Saku Saku
Saku saku is wonderful prepared fresh, and can be used in place of any other cabbage variety in salads and slaws. Fresh shredded saku saku makes a great addition to tacos, sandwiches and wraps for a bit of extra crunch.
In Japan, it is common to find a mountain of julienned fresh cabbage on the plate of your deep fried favorites like tonkatsu, or Japanese pork cutlet. The refreshing and nutrient-dense cabbage helps to balance the flavors of fatty and meaty dishes in addition to the health benefits described above. Saku saku can be marinated to make Izakaya-style salted saku saku – a popular (and slightly addictive) pairing for a cold beer.
The individual leaves can also be used as wrappers for steaming and blanching fish, meats and dumplings.