Often mistaken for lettuce, Tokyo Bekana is in fact a Chinese cabbage varietal grown in Japan. Its brilliant chartreuse color and soft, ruffled leaves are paired with a delicate flavor and a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
One of several varieties of Chinese cabbage, Tokyo Bekana was developed in Japan from Chinese cabbages brought home by soldiers returning from the Russo-Japanese war in the early 1900s. Still grown heavily in rural Japan today, Tokyo Bekana is often stir-fried with other greens as well as tofu or tiny turnips. It also has the distinction of being on the International Space Station as part of the Veg-03 experiment.
Along with helping to improve digestion, Tokyo Bekana contains significant amounts of vitamins A, C, and K.
Wrap Tokyo Bekana loosely in a plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator crisper for up to 7 days.
With its soft but surprisingly firm leaves, Tokyo Bekana is a natural substitute for lettuce in salads, sandwiches and wraps, but also holds up well to being sauteed or stewed. Its mild flavor with subtle bitter undertones pairs well with poultry, pork and fish, as well as legumes and mushrooms.
Spread 1 to 2 Tokyo Bekana leaves out on a cutting board and add a spoonful of seasoned ground beef, shredded carrots and daikon, matchstick cucumber, and slices of avocado. Wrap leaves tightly like a burrito, spearing with a toothpick if needed to hold it all together. Dip in a mixture of sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar and chili before eating.
The thick, crunchy stems of Tokyo Bekana are perfect for use in stir-fry dishes or curries.