Here’s a quick guide to bok choy, with an overview of how to use this versatile Asian green vegetable. Most people who like greens or who have eaten in Chinese restaurants have likely eaten bok choy, a mild, easy-to-love vegetable.
Of all Asian greens — and there are many — bok choy is arguably the most widely known and available in western markets. The more common form of bok choy is also known as pok choy, We use the term bok choy to somewhat generically describe the larger kind, with the crisp white stalks and dark leaves.
There are also several varieties of baby bok choy. I always think of all the varieties as two-for-the-price-of-one item — a crisp veggie and leafy greens in one neat package.
Is bok choy good for you? Yes, it is! This practically calorie-free veggie (9 calories per cup!) is a good source of vitamins A and C, and is even a decent source of calcium.
Baby bok choy
Baby bok choy is sometimes known as Shanghai bok choy. It’s a smaller version of the former variety, with stems and leaves of a fairly uniform, pale green hue.
If you scour Asian markets here at home, you might find a kind of bok choy that’s half again as small as the kind of baby bok choy we’re used to seeing. If you’re lucky enough to come across it, simply use it whole in stir-fries.
While many of us are familiar with the two more common varieties of bok choy, there are at least twenty others in parts of the Asia where this kind of green is consumed more regularly.
Other variants of the choy or choi family: Asian markets, both in their native lands and in American and European cities, are filled with leafy green vegetables that rarely make it to western supermarkets or farm markets.
Some of the most widely used are gai lan (Chinese broccoli) and the “choy” vegetables, which go by varied names like yu chow sum and gai choy. Then there are Chinese mustard greens, and the Japanese greens mizuna and tatsoi. It’s worth going a bit out of your way to find these greens and prepare them simply in your kitchen!
How to prepare bok choy: To prepare, bok choy is first stemmed; an inch or so needs to be trimmed off the bottom of the larger bok choy stalks; much less for the baby bok choy.
Then the bok choy is sliced, leaves and all. The very tiniest baby bok choy, as mentioned above, can just be used whole. No matter which kind, this vegetable should be well rinsed, as sand often clings to the leaves or hides inside the stalks.
Best in stir-fries, soups, or used raw: Either of the common varieties of bok choy are equally good raw in salads or very lightly cooked in stir-fries and Asian-style soups.
Make sure to explore the following bok choy recipes on this site in addition to the braised bok choy just above. And here are even more details on using bok choy if you want to explore further.
Recipes using bok choy
Braised Bok Choy with Shiitake Mushrooms: This simple dish features two ingredients that are made for each other. Even with the prep, it takes just minutes to make. Serve this lovely side dish with Asian-style tofu or noodle dishes. It’s good on its own or over rice.
Kale and Cabbage Salad with Baby Corn and Bok Choy: This colorful salad is especially good with the napa variety, but the other green cabbages work as well. Bok choy and baby corn give it a special touch.
Stir-Fried Tofu and Bok Choy: This quick tofu and bok choy stir-fry uses two of my favorite shortcuts — a richly-flavored teriyaki marinade and squeeze-bottle ginger.
Ginger and Garlic Stir-Fried Bok Choy: Flavored with ginger and garlic, stir-fried bok choy is quick to prepare and can be served on its own or over rice, quinoa, or noodles.
Hoisin-Ginger Udon Noodles: Featuring plenty of bok choy, this is a quick plant-based dish with a minimum of ingredients and great flavor. Best of all, it’s ready in minutes.
Seared Baby Bok Choy
Heres’s a delicious minimalist preparation for seared baby bok choy, shown above. Baby bok choy is at its best in the spring when plump and fresh, though like many vegetables, it’s getting to be more available year round. This is a super-quick way to prepare it, showing it off in all its glory, both flavor-wise and visually. This idea, and the accompanying recipes, are from Wild About Greens.
1 Cut each baby bok choy in half so that the widest part is exposed (leave the stem end intact).
2 Heat a shallow layer of olive oil in a large pan; when really hot, place the bok choy halves cut side down on the skillet, cover and cook over high (but not highest) heat for 3 minutes or until nicely browned.
3 Serve with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. That’s it; enjoy!
Photos of Seared Baby Bok Choy by Susan Voisin, FatFreeVegan.com
Photo at top: IriGri/Bigstock