Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Bok Choy: What Is It and How Do I Cook It?

Baby Bok Choy
The first time I saw bok choy in the produce department, I thought it was a new kind of celery.  One end had thick white stems attached to a base and the other end had big leaves.  Since I was tired of my usual beans, broccoli, spinach and asparagus, I bought a large bok choy so I could try it out.  Here’s what I learned:

Bok choy is a member of the Chinese cabbage family and is popular in Asian dishes.  The stalks can be white or green, but the leaves are always green.  Because the stalks take longer to cook, I cut them into 1/2-inch slices and add them to a stir-fry or soup when I add the onions.  These slices can also be eaten raw, as you would celery, or dropped into salads.  I cut the leaf portion into strips and add them to a stir-fry or a soup a minute or two before serving—just long enough for them to wilt. 

A large bok choy will last for several meals.  You can also buy miniature versions, called baby bok choy.  Sold loose or in bundles of 4, 6 or 8 in Asian markets and some grocery stores, they can be quickly boiled or steamed and served whole, 1 or 2 per person, as a side.  The flavor is delicate, so I add some seasonings (see below) to provide pep. 
Spicy Asian Baby Bok Choy – serves 4 (adapted from “Help! My Apartment Has a Dining Room!”)  
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1-inch piece fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons dry white wine (or water)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
8 baby bok choy
1/2 cup water 
Put the sesame seeds in a small dry frying pan and heat over medium-high heat, stirring continually, for about 3 minutes, or until they begin to turn light brown.  Remove from the heat and set aside. 
If you are using fresh ginger, peel and finely chop it. 
Heat the oil in a small pot over medium heat.  Add the fresh or ground ginger and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, for a few seconds, or until the spices begin to sizzle.  Add the wine (or water), soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
Cut each baby bok choy lengthwise in half and rinse thoroughly, making sure to get out the dirt between the leaves.  Trim the stalk ends slightly but keep them attached to the base.  Lay the bok choy in a single layer in a large frying pan.  Add the water, cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Turn down the heat to medium and cook for about 2 minutes, or until a sharp knife enters a stalk with just a little resistance.  The leaves will have wilted.  Immediately drain and transfer to a bowl.  
Pour the sauce over the top, sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds and serve.  This dish can also be served cold.
               For easy recipes, get a copy of "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"