In Japan, people often cook with fresh, in-season ingredients. During the cold month of December, hakusai (nappa cabbage), kabu (turnips) and daikon radishes are the perfect accompaniments to many hearty and warming dishes.

The cold month of December brings to mind heartwarming stews, roasts and other comforting foods that take away the winter chill. Many of these hearty dishes wouldn’t be complete without the winter vegetables that are in season this time of year. In Japan, people harvest hakusai (napa cabbage), kabu (turnips) and daikon radishes, all of which are readily available.

Japanese cuisine is often full of flavor and umami, mainly because the Japanese tend to cook with the vegetables that are currently in season. To lend great flavor to your own winter dishes (and to get some great health benefits as well), cook with hakusai, kabu and daikon radishes during the winter months.

Tips for Choosing the Best Hakusai in Season

Napa cabbage is a type of Asian cabbage that is somewhat similar to bok choy, though it appears much leafier and stockier. Choosing the best napa cabbage in season isn’t difficult. Simply look for a heavy head of cabbage that exhibits white ribs and bright green leaves. The ribs should appear crisp, and the leaves shouldn’t look dry. You can store this cabbage wrapped in plastic in the fridge for some time, but it is best to consume it within the first few days.

Like most leafy greens, there are also a quite a few health benefits of napa cabbage. For starters, it is low-calorie and high in antioxidants and dietary fiber. Additionally, it is high in vitamins C and K, and it is an excellent source of folates and minerals. All these vitamins and minerals help to protect against various ailments.

Hotpot and warm sake shots! Hungry? Read on!

Napa Cabbage Cream Hot Pot

A perfect winter dish, this hot pot features napa cabbage, chicken and daikon radishes. It will warm your bones and heart and keep the chill away!

Tips for Choosing the Best Daikon and Kabu in Season

Daikon does not look like American radishes at all; it is long and thick, rather than small and round. Kabu, however, does look somewhat similar to American turnips, though it is substantially smaller. It is also a bit spicier.

When choosing daikon radishes, look for ones that are straight and thick. The surface should be smooth, and the skin should be white with no major blemishes. They should also feel heavy—this means they contain a lot of water and will be juicy and flavorful. Kabu should be white and round, with greens at the top that appear fresh and sturdy.

Both daikon and kabu are very high in vitamins and minerals, and they offer a variety of health benefits, including helping to strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of various diseases and cancers. In fact, some even consider daikon a superfood.

You can eat daikon or kabu raw as a snack or in salads. You can also add them to soups and stir-fries.

Simmered Daikon With Soboro

This dish is simple to make yet looks like it would be served in a gourmet restaurant. Made with ginger, scallions, chicken and dashi broth, it is bursting with umami and health benefits.

Uncover all the good stuff of daikon radish here.