Bok Choy / Pak Choy

[Xiao Baicai, Qing Cai (Mandarin); Bok Choy, Pak Choy, Pak Choi (Cantonese); Kwang Bae Bai Khao (Thai); Brassica rapa Group Chinensis]

Bok Choy is not a cabbage but turnip greens. All versions feature a sharper flavor with thicker, crisper stems than Napa Cabbage (also a turnip green). The white stemmed varieties are very popular in stir fries and soups, the green stemmed Shanghai Bok Choy is often steamed. Bok choy does not form tight heads but the clusters of stems form a tight bundle

Bok Choy, Large
Large Bok Choy stems and leaves This large form is now widely available in North American produce markets and even many supermarkets. This vegetable is the "cabbage" of southern China, while Napa Cabbage (also a turnip green) takes its place in the north. It is available in a variety of sizes, but the photo specimen was 14-1/2 inches long and weighed just over 3 pounds.

More on Asian Greens .

Bok Choy Mui
Tiny Bok Choy heads This is the "real" baby bok choy, one of my favorite vegetables for stir fries and such, but it's not widely available outside markets serving Asian communities. It is not really "baby", it's a tiny variety, as witnessed by the mature flower heads you will find on it. There are actually a number of miniature cultivars, some smaller, some larger. Taste is similar to full size bok choy but the distribution of stem and leaf is more pleasing in my opinion - more leaf.

Prep:   The main problem with this form is getting all the grit washed out. I usually strip the biggest stems off, then split the remaining head in half lengthwise which makes it easier to fluff the leaves and wash it.

Long Bok Choy
Long Bok Choy heads This cultivar is longer and narrower than a regular mid-size bok choy, but it tastes the same and can be used in exactly the same way. It does have the advantage that the stems are less bulky, thus need less lead time over the leaves when cooking and the texture of the dish will be less coarse. It frequently shows up in Asian markets in Los Angeles, but probably not much elsewhere yet.

Buying:   The large white stemmed Bok Choy can be found in most North American produce and supermarkets. The other forms shown above will only be available in markets serving an Asian community. Look for firm heads with bright green leaves and without soft spots or discoloration on the white leaf stems.

Storing:   All forms of bok choy should be loosely wrapped and refrigerated. They will keep several days and then start to turn yellow. Yellowing leaves have lost their flavor and must be discarded.

Cooking:   The White stemmed Bok Choy is often used in stir fries and soups. It is usually best to cut or tear the green leaves away from the white stems and into the desired size. Slice the stems diagonally crosswise to the width desired. The larger the stem the narrower the width should be. Keep the stems and leaves separate.

When cooking, give the stems a lead of 1 to 4 minutes depending on size and method. For stir fries, the leaves should be stirred in just enough to be coated with oil, then the liquid ingredients are added. Cover and simmer until the stem slices are crisp tender. Do not overcook.

Health and Nutrition   Bok choys are considered a very healthy, nutritious green, and suspected of anti-cancer properties due to containing Glucosinolate. Due to the glucosinolate, Bok Choy can be toxic to people already seriously ill - but it takes about 2 to 3 pounds a day, every day, to be dangerous.

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