Lifeskills: How to Cook Baby Bok Choi

One of the best things about food in China is learning just how good vegetables can taste. Who knew?Bok choy is one of my favorite vegetables to cook. Not the great big heads of 白菜 bai cai (literally, white vegetable, aka Chinese cabbage) nor the immature, baby, version of the plant the Southern Chinese call 小白菜 xiao bai cai (small white vegetable) but the similarly sized, light green vegetable bunches that we call baby bok choy in the States. Eight or nine times out of ten, the term 青菜 qing cai (green vegetable) got me what I wanted in China, though that term could refer to a whole host of different leafy greens.

This is what I'm talking about.

Anyway, this is how to cook that lovely vegetable. It’ll work for just about any other substantial leafy green.
Have on hand:

  • Bok choy (remember, this boils down quite a bit so buy more than you think you’ll want to serve)
  • salt
  • sesame oil
  • oyster sauce
  • soy sauce

Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
Cut the ends off the bok choy to separate into individual leaves, and wash these.
Blanch the bok choy leaves, a handful or two at a time, in the boiling water for ~30 seconds. Remove from the pot and set aside in a colander placed in the sink or in a large bowl to catch drips.
Toss out the water and, over *low* heat, add a tablespoon or so of sesame oil to the pot. Be sure the heat is low, as sesame oil has a very low smoke point. Add a couple good-sized globs of oyster sauce and a dash or two of soy sauce. Mix these together well and let a bit of the moisture boil off. Add the blanched bai cai back to the pot and stir to coat. Et voilá!

I serve this with just about every Asian dish I make. You just can’t get enough dark leafy greens in your diet. It’s especially good with my famous Whole Pink Fish with Orange Juice and Cumin or Pai Gu (Spare ribs) in Black Bean Sauce.

Let me know how this works out for you and what you pair it with!


2 thoughts on “Lifeskills: How to Cook Baby Bok Choi

  1. Three things!

    1) I never knew how to to bok choy, I always used to sear it in the screaming hot wok and then steam it off. Your version seems much more civilized.
    2) I keep looking back at your picture of Stage I Carnitas and laughing. I think the problem might the the “stage 1” part, not you.
    3) We have the same wordpress theme! We’re like blog twins!

  2. Hey there blog twin!
    3) Thanks for inspiring me to update the photo-headers and clean up the look of my little space. The previous background was just too busy.
    2) Carnitas, Stage I…sounds like a Mexi/Shakespearian play within a play.
    1) Re: bok choy, do try this way out and let me know what you think! If you’d like a simpler sauce, you can just smash a few heads of garlic, fry them in a few TB of oil, remove from the heat, add a bit of salt, and then toss the blanched greens in the flavored oil. Also tasty.
    1a) Sunset magazine has another interesting bok choy suggestion in the December issue…grill halved bok choy bunches that have been tossed in olive oil, then drizzle with peanut sauce. Intriguing.

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