If there was a contest for cutest vegetable, I’d probably nominate baby bok choy. The smaller, the cuter. If you visit any market in any Chinatown in the U.S., you’ll find bok choy that can fit into the palm of your hand. Other choy-related vegetables are worth exploring, too.
Here in my local natural foods store, baby bok choy that’s kind of medium-ish in size is what’s most often available. The other kind of bok choy, with the large white stalks and darker green leaves, is what’s more commonly found in supermarkets. That kind is also fine to use in this recipe for braised bok choy with shiitake mushrooms.
Bok choy and mushrooms are just made for each other, as you’ll discover in this Asian-inspired side dish. Calcium-rich bok choy is one of the easiest greens to use because you needn’t bother trimming stems away — just slice through the crispy whole stalk and the leaves. It’s kind of like a two-in-one veggie, and 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.
MORE ABOUT BOK CHOY
Bok choy is arguably one of the most widely available variety of Asian greens in the west. The term “bok choy” generally describes the larger kind, with the crisp white stalks and dark leaves. Baby bok choy is a smaller version, with stems and leaves of a fairly uniform, pale green hue. Either variety is a kind of two-fer: A crisp veggie and leafy greens in one neat package.
If you scour Asian markets, you might find a kind of bok choy that’s half again as small as the kind of baby bok choy commonly marketed in western supermarkets or natural foods markets. If you’re lucky enough to come across it, simply rinse it well and use it whole in stir-fries.
Most people who like greens or who have eaten in Chinese restaurants have likely come across this mild, likable vegetable. While we’re familiar with the two above described varieties, there are at least twenty in parts of the Asia where this kind of green is consumed with more frequency.
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. When it comes to cooking, the less the better — the leaves wilt quickly and the stems are best when still crisp. So the watchword is quick — add last and don’t cook for more than a minute unless it’s in a braised preparation.
To prepare, they’re usually just stemmed (an inch or so needs to be trimmed off the bottom of the larger bok choy stalks) and sliced, leaves and all.