I wouldn’t even care to guess how many writers have used boiled cabbage as a device to evoke images of poverty and squalor. It’s doubtless an unfair bias, because not only is cabbage extremely nutritious, but it has been eaten equally by rich and poor, the world ’round.
Regardless of that, boiling cabbage does stink. You know it for sure, when someone who writes about a dish of pig intestines he seems to have enjoyed, and in the same paragraph refers to cabbage as “sewage smelling”–
The other notable dish at Founder Bak Kut Teh is the Pig Intestines or “Hoon Terng”. It was the mild with a nice chewy texture. Unfortunately, I do not like cabbage in soup as it adds, to me, a foul smell and taste. Try boiling cabbage in your kitchen, you’ll soon discover a rather distressing smell emanating from it. That’s the smell I do not like at all. To me, the intestines alone would provide a good enough twist to the original broth without the sewage-smelling boiled cabbage. (source)