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While planning out our meals for the week, I found this delicious-looking Yakisoba recipe that I would like to try. The recipe looks good, but one thing concerns me.

cabbage (~2 leaves) chopped

It seems like a waste to purchase one whole head of cabbage for just a single recipe. So I'd like to use something else.

It can have a similar flavor, or be complimentary to the rest of the dish, but my main goal here is to use something other than cabbage for this recipe.

I know that I could re-use the cabbage in another recipe, but I've already picked out the rest of our meals for the week, and my wife's already bought some of the groceries, so it's either find another ingredient, find another meal, or waste most of a cabbage head.

So, what can I use in this dish that would work for a Yakisoba dish?

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    What else do you have planned for the week? In the recipe you cited, the addition of cabbage probably has more to do with texture than flavor. Could you use a vegetable from your other planned meals? Alternately, you could just leave it out. – moscafj May 4 '15 at 18:33
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    And even if this week's meals are planned: properly stored, a head of cabbage should last a couple of weeks - peel off two or more outer leaves, store the rest in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. – Stephie May 4 '15 at 18:42
  • @moscafj It's actually a five-day plan. Tonight is take-away, then a Cucumber/cheese/cherries/chickpea salad with a vinegar dressing, then the Yakisoba, then Niku Jaga (which COULD use the cabbage, but we've never made it before), and we haven't decided on a Friday meal yet. Admittedly we COULD put the cabbage in one or two of those other meals, but I'd like to know if there's a substitute we could use instead - specifically one that won't require us to buy a lot of something we'll only use a little of. – Zibbobz May 4 '15 at 18:57
  • @Zibbobz are you using green beans in the Niku Jaga? Save a few to replace the cabbage in the Yakisoba...or use some cucumber. My point earlier was that you are probably just looking for a textural element. In practice, I would just buy a cabbage as Stephie suggests...then use in in next week's menu. – moscafj May 4 '15 at 19:20
  • @moscafj That sounds distinctly like an answer. And while we're not currently planning to use green beans in the Niku Jaga, we could do so. – Zibbobz May 4 '15 at 19:22
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From a purist perspective, cabbage is fairly important to the recognizability of the dish by that name (as well as the pickled matchstick-cut ginger). Additional ingredients beyond those two are far more substitutable (at least from common Japanese perspective); the cabbage actually contributes a fair amount of flavor to an otherwise unremarkable dish. In fact, the presence of a mere two leaves suggests to me this is a pretty small portion.

So here's a "how to avoid substituting" answer, followed by a how to substitute answer.

Cabbage tends to survive a good 2 weeks in the refrigerator, so I wouldn't fret about it too much. It also makes a good garnish, shredded; additionally, it was super trendy for a few years for izakaya in Japan to serve raw cabbage with miso paste (sometimes sweetened). I know many shops that will even sell a half a head (in Japan it's easy to buy even a quarter head of cabbage), or you may find a small package of pre-chopped, unseasoned coleslaw mix, which typically contains cabbage and carrots. Finally, cabbage makes an excellent foundation for a vegetarian soup stock, so it's great way of making sure any surplus doesn't go to waste.

The only substitutes somewhat consistent with the style of the dish are other variations of cabbage (bok choy, napa cabbage, possibly kimchi) or certain crispy roots like kohlrabi. But frankly, those steer the dish into a non-Japanese style of pan-fried noodles. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but the texture and flavor differences are fairly pronounced. In a pinch, we've made these substitutions in my home, but in that case it was more about using up available ingredients, rather than trying to find an alternative.

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    Upon reviewing that recipe it seems a little heavier on carrot and lighter on cabbage than what we would make at home (and I don't think we typically use scallions or tokyo negi in ours, and only sometimes include onion), so you might consider using a higher percentage of cabbage in your own variation and reducing the other vegetables. Most recipes for yakisoba that I find in Japanese don't use onion or scallions. – JasonTrue May 4 '15 at 19:59
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You could use Brussels sprouts- basically mini cabbages. Or just buy the cabbage and start a freezer bag of veggie waste to make your own vegetable stock for soups. Lots of information can be found online about doing this if vegetable waste is a concern for you. Homemade stocks are much tastier and you know exactly what's going into them. Another alternative is kale- you could use the entire thing because it cooks down so much.

  • While I agree with the principle of saving vegetable waste, I'm not sure brussels sprouts are all that similar to cabbage. – Zibbobz May 4 '15 at 20:48
  • foodrepublic.com/2013/02/19/… – Steeniroo May 4 '15 at 20:54
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    I find this a pretty reasonable alternative, actually. The texture is quite a bit more tender than a head of cabbage would be, but it's close and can often be acquired in small quantities. – JasonTrue May 4 '15 at 20:58
  • @Zibbobz : you realize that brussel sprouts are from the same family as cabbage, right? This is exactly what I use when cooking for one. Because the leaves tend to be thinner, you'll often add them right at the end of cooking. (or just thinly shread it, and don't cook it at all). – Joe May 5 '15 at 2:17
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    @Joe: little bit of interesting food trivia... brussels sprouts are actually the exact same species as cabbage! Brassica oleracea includes those cultivars, plus broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and collard greens. – jkraybill May 5 '15 at 5:32

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