Suan cai (also called Chinese sauerkraut is a traditional Chinese cuisine pickled Chinese cabbage. It is used in a variety of ways. Suan cai is a unique form of pao cai, due to the material used and the method of production.
Traditionally, only Chinese cabbage is used to make the vegetable dish. Suan cai differs from the rest of pao cai in the production process in that the vegetable is compressed. This is accomplished by placing a heavy weight such as a large rock on top of the cover of the container so that the Chinese cabbage inside the container is slowly pressed and fermented. The compression and tight packing of the vegetable helps to create a distinct flavor or taste.
Depending on the cuisine, suan cai can be eaten directly without cooking. Generally, the cabbage is dipped into boiling water, then put in a container with cold water with salt. To preserve the distinct flavor, it is not cooked or prepared with other vegetables.
Suan cai is excellent in cooking with meat, especially pork. It is said to neutralize the grease of meat.
In Cantonese cuisine, it is served in a small dish often as an appetiser. They are usually free. Sometimes it can be available in mini-containers on the dining table. There are also Cantonese variations such as salted suan cai (鹹酸菜).