Friday, January 26, 2007

Featured Veggie - Bok Choi

Bok choy, or "brassica chinensis" to use its scientific name, is classified as a cabbage. Nonetheless, bok choy bears little resemblance to the round European cabbages found in western supermarkets, or to Napa Cabbage for that matter. Its white stalks resemble celery without the stringiness, while the dark green, crinkly leaves of the most common variety is similar to Romaine lettuce.
Although bok choy was introduced to Europe in the 1800's, and is now readily available in supermarkets throughout North America, other cuisines have been slow to embrace it. Bok choy is widely popular in the Philippines, where large numbers of Chinese immigrated following Spain's conquest of the islands in the 1500's. While bok choy is grown in the United States and several Canadian provinces, it remains firmly associated with Chinese cooking.
Mention the word bok choy, and most of us think of the plant with dark green leaves; however, in Hong Kong over twenty varieties are available. You can also find Shanghai or baby bok choy, a miniaturized version of bok choy, at Asian markets. Cookbook author and television show host Martin Yan notes that westerners have a "bigger is better" philosophy when it comes to Chinese vegetables. The opposite holds true in China, where the smaller varieties are valued for their tenderness. An added benefit is that recipes often call for them to be cooked whole, reducing preparation time. From Rhonda Parkinson: Your Guide to Chinese Cuisine web page

Expand your bok choy palette, and palate, and try the following gourmet yet simple bok choy dishes:


  • 1 tablespoon canola, sesame (not toasted) or other oil for high heat
  • 2 tablespoons turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 pounds bok choy, halved lengthwise
  • 1 can coconut milk, plus enough water to make 3 cups liquid
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

In a 9-inch saucepan, heat oil over low heat. Stir in the turmeric and salt and cook for about 1 minute. Add the bok choy, laying pieces on their sides and cramming them in to make as compact as possible. Pour in coconut/water mixture, cover pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook 6 minutes. If some of the bok choy is not covered with liquid, turn pieces. Cover and cook 6 more minutes. Stir in juice.
Serves 4 as a side dish. From “Vegetable Love,” Barbara Kafka, Artisan, 2005.


  • 1 1/2 pounds bok choy or Shanghai bok choy
  • 1/2 cake firm tofu
  • 2 egg whites
  • 4 scallions, minced
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 dozen gyoza wrappers (or wonton wrappers cut into circles)

Steam or microwave bok choy until wilted. Let cool, then drain and chop finely. Press out any excess liquid.In a food processor, puree tofu with the egg whites. Add to bok choy. Add scallions.Combine remaining ingredients, except gyoza wrappers. Add to bok choy mixture, mixing well. Place about two teaspoons of filling in the centre of each gyoza wrapper. Draw dough up and pinch together at three points to form a triangle, leaving middle of filling exposed.Arrange on a heatproof plate or steamer tray and steam over boiling water until cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Baby bok choy has a sweeter flavor than adult varieties. For a lighter taste, feel free to stir-fry the baby bok choy in olive oil. Low-sodium chicken broth can be used in place of water.
  • 4 bunches baby bok choy (basically, 1 bunch per person)
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • A few drops sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil for stir-frying

Wash the baby bok choy and drain. Separate the stalks and leaves. Cut the stalk diagonally and cut the leaves across. Heat wok and add oil. When oil is ready, add ginger and stir-fry briefly, for about 30 seconds, until the ginger is aromatic. Add the bok choy, adding the stalks first, and then the leaves. Stir in the soy sauce, honey, and salt, and stir-fry on high heat for 1 mdinute. Add the water, cover the wok and simmer for about 2 minutes. Stir in the sesame oil and serve. Serves 4

The seaweed in this recipe is actually bok choy that has been deep-fried just until it turns crispy. This is one recipe where you probably won't want to reuse the deep-frying oil for another dish - the bok choy turns it a greenish color.Serves 4 to 6.

  • 1/2 pound bok choy
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds
  • 2 cups oil for deep-frying, or as needed
  • 1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar (optional)

Wash the bok choy and drain thoroughly. Finely chop the toasted almonds.When the bok choy has dried, separate the stalks and leaves. Roll the leaves up cigar-style, and then cut into thin shreds. Heat the oil in a wok to between 300 and 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Add a batch of the shredded bok choy. Submerge the bok choy shreds in the hot oil for a few seconds only and remove quickly. (If you have one, a mesh deep-frying basket is ideal for this). Do not let the leaves turn brown. Drain on paper towels. Continue with the remainder of the bok choy shreds. Place the shreds in a bowl and toss with the honey and chopped almonds. Serve immediately.

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