A Guide to Making the Perfect Chinese Emperor’s Cabbage Recipe: Qianlong Bai Cai

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Emperor’s Cabbage Salad, also known as Quin Long Bai Cai in Chinese, is a famous and delicious dish that originated in China. This Chinese cabbage recipe is made with a variety of vegetables combined with a flavourful dressing sauce made from vinegar, soy sauce, and other seasonings. This salad has become a staple dish in Chinese and is enjoyed by people globally as it is highly nutritious and loaded with fiber, vitamins, and other beneficial nutrients. The fact that it was originally served to the emperor of China named this salad “Emperor’s Cabbage Salad. In this post, we will delve deeper into the cultural significance and history of the Emperor’s cabbage salad and provide the recipe to make this delicious recipe. 

History of Emperor’s Cabbage Salad

Legend has it that during the reign of Emperor Qianlong, he was out on one of his incognito expeditions, frequently towards the warmer south. It was the Eve of the Lunar New Year when he was returning from the outskirt city of Tongzhou, and no eatery was open. To find food and drink for their hangry Emperor, his men desperately wandered around the empty streets for hours. At last, they came across a humble little shed. 

The Emperor along with his guards all incognito sat down at a table and asked the owner for serving the finest dishes they had. As the shed usually served only the poor laborers, so all they served them were boiled cabbage salad, peanuts, and leftover stewed pork with sesame paste and honey. Qianlong enjoyed the cabbage salad and downed it with bottles of rice wine. After finishing the meal, when the Emperor asked the name of the restaurant to the owner to which he replied none. The Emperor then named the restaurant ‘Duyichu’ (meaning the only place in the capital), as it was the only place that remains open on New Year’s Eve in the whole capital. From that day Emperor’s Cabbage Salad became a popular choice and remains to this day. 

Recipe of Emperor’s Cabbage Salad: Qianlong Bai Cai-


  • 1 large Napa cabbage 
  • Cilantro
  • Red Pepper
  • Roasted white or black sesame seeds
  • Honey
  • Sesame oil
  • Aged Chinese vinegar
  • Dark soy sauce 
  • Salt to taste

Instructions : 

  • Vertically cut your Chinese cabbage in two halves and use the top leafy part only. 
  • Carefully peel the leaves one by one to ensure that you don’t tear them.  
  • While you make the dressing, soak the leaves in ice water.
  • In a big bowl, make a sauce from the above ingredients by creaming the sesame paste, vinegar, and the ingredients together with a fork until it turns into a smooth paste. You can also add the Chinese noodles sauce to enhance the flavor.
  • If you have time, allow the flavors to harmonize by keeping them for half an hour.
  • Drain your cabbage until they are entirely dry and coat each leaf with sauce, toss the cabbage leaves with the dressing until it is coated evenly.
  • Serve after it gets done.

Additional Tips:

  • As you will be using the leaves and not the stems, hence choose a leafy cabbage
  • After cleaning, wash the cabbage in ice water also, this will ensure that the cabbage remains crunchy.
  • You cannot keep this salad for later consumption in the fridge, as the cabbage will go limp over time. 

The Verdict

In conclusion, Emperor’s cabbage salad is a nutritious and delicious refreshing salad, packed with vitamins and fibers. It is a favorite Chinese food around the globe that offers a delightful combination of textures and flavors. It is relatively easy to make this Chinese salad and customizable, meaning you can add your unique twist and taste to the dish. It is a great stand-alone dish as well as an addition to any meal. It is worth giving a try, so go ahead and try a shot to experience this iconic Chinese dish. 

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