All About Bok Choy
Selecting: Look for dark green leaves and crisp, not wilting, stalks.
Storing: Greens can be wrapped loosely in a damp paper towel and stored in a bag or container. It is best to cook them soon after you bring them home, but they should keep for about a week this way. Do not wash the greens until you are ready to cook them.
Preparing Bok Choy: You want to eat the stalks as well as the leaves of bok choy. Baby bok choy can be eaten whole. For more mature bok choy, you'll want to separate the leaves from the base. Use a sharp knife to cut off the root close to the base, but preserve as much of the white stalks as possible. Stalks and leaves can be diced or chopped to add to stir-fries.
Freezing: I find that most leafy greens can be cooked and frozen for later. The stalks of bok choy and chard do not freeze well, just the leaves. My method is to sauté them first, though Jackie blanches them.
Here's what I do: I fill the sink with cold water. Then, I separate the leaves from the stems. Usually, I just run my fingers along the stalk from the stem up to the tip, as you might do with herbs, removing the leaves as I go. I tear the leaves into pieces, about 2-inches square, and place them in the sink to wash. I discard the stems. Once the greens are in the sink, I swish the water around to agitate the leaves. The dirt should fall to the bottom. Then, I lift the greens out of the water and transfer them to a large bowl (this is so I can move the greens from the sink to the stove without making a mess).
Now I heat some olive oil in a large pot over high heat. When the oil is hot, I throw in a smashed and peeled garlic clove, let it sizzle for a few seconds, then add the greens by the handful to the pot. They shrink a surprising amount, so if the pot seems full, just wait a few seconds. When all the greens are in the pot, I cover it, reduce the heat slightly, and let the greens cook until they are tender. Chard, spinach, or beet greens cook in a few minutes; they are ready as soon as they are wilted. Tougher greens like kale, mustard or collards take longer. Just keep tasting them until they have the right texture for you. Once the greens are cooked, there might be extra liquid in the pan. Transfer the greens to a colander to let any excess liquid drain off. If you like, you can chop the greens finer, before or after freezing.
Here are instructions for blanching greens for freezing.
Featured Recipe: Chapchae (or Japchae)
During the eight years I worked at Seattle Children's Hospital I rarely ventured off campus for lunch. The one place where I was a regular was Sunrice, where Liz prepared delicious Korean food from good ingredients. The lunch special I always ordered included tofu with spicy sunrice sauce, a huge portion of chapchae, delicious brown sticky rice, and a green salad. I haven't figured out how to make Liz's incredibly tasty, chewy tofu, but I finally found the sweet potato noodles to make chapchae and realized it's pretty easy.
An online search yields many different recipes, which all sound relatively similar. You'll need to try it to find out how you like the balance of salty and sweet and the ratio of vegetables to noodles. Nearly every recipe I've read includes the same combination of garlic, onion, carrot, mushroom, and spinach – for this, and other reasons, I'm sure the bok choy alone makes this inauthentic chapchae. Still, the sweet potato noodles seem to be a great alternative to rice for accompanying stir-fries using whatever produce I have on hand at the moment.
The chef in this video recipe chops and cooks as she goes, demonstrating how quickly this meal can come together. The recipe is adapted from this site (http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/japchae).
- Sweet potato noodles
- (optional) 2-3 oz beef, cut in thin strips
- 1 head of bok choy or 4 baby bok choy, washed and spun dry. Slice stems ¼" thick diagonally and leaves into large bite size pieces, and keep separate.
- 1 medium size carrot, cut to 2" matchsticks
- 1 medium size onion, sliced thinly
- 5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water for a few hours, with the water then squeezed out, and sliced thinly (optional)
- ½ lb white mushrooms, sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 7-8 green onions, cut in 2-3" pieces
- Oil for frying (vegetable, peanut, grapeseed, or olive)
- soy sauce
- sesame oil
- sesame seeds
- Boil noodles in boiling water in a big pot for about 3 minutes. When the noodles are soft, drain them (keeping the water if you plan to blanch spinach or bok choy) and put in a large bowl.
- Cut the noodles several times by using scissors and add 1 tbs of soy sauce and 1 tbs of sesame oil. Mix it up, using your hands to massage the sauce into the noodles, and set aside.
- OPTIONAL The recipe says to blanch the spinach in the boiling water for 1 minute, then rinse in cold water 3 times, squeeze gently, then cut it into 5 cm pieces. Add ½ tbs soy sauce and ½ tbs sesame oil and mix it and place it onto the large bowl. With bok choy I stir fry the stems early on and leaves at the end, which is why I suggest the blanching step is optional.
- Heat a small amount of oil, brown the sliced white mushrooms, and remove them to the large bowl. I do this to make sure the mushrooms get fried and not steamed.
- The remaining vegetables can be stir-fried over very high heat one at a time and added to the bowl, or some can remain in the pan together. If frying them together, I suggest starting with onions and carrots, then and bok choy stems, then green onions. The garlic and shiitake mushrooms (if using) can be added with the green onions if you do not plan to include meat. After the green onions add the bok choy leaves just to wilt. Remove all fried vegetables to the large bowl.
- Place a few drops of olive oil on the pan and add the beef and shiitake mushrooms (if using). Stir until well cooked, then add garlic, ½ tbs soy sauce and ½ tbs sugar. Stir for another 30 seconds and then put it into the large bowl.
- Add 2 tbs of soy sauce, 3 tbs of sugar, 2 tbs of sesame oil, and 1 ts of ground pepper to the large bowl. Mix all ingredients, then sprinkle 1 tbs of toasted sesame seeds on the top. It really does seem to help to use your hands to mix this, getting the sauce good and mixed into the noodles.
- Serve hot with rice and Kimchi, or as a side dish, or room temperature. When cold the texture of the noodles is not as good.
Jackie Starr is a LexFarm founding member who has been a flexitarian home cook for 25 years. Her recipe selections and adaptations are informed by experiences living abroad, by having spent many years in the Bay Area and Seattle, and by a delight in local, seasonal bounty.
More Ideas for Bok Choy
Deborah Madison has a very easy soft tofu and bok choy recipe — the sauce takes about 3 minutes to mix together. Non tofu-lovers can use shrimp or another type of vegetable –such as sliced carrot or red pepper or halved cherry tomatoes for color. Or, when the tofu is highly seasoned as in this recipe adapted from Peter Berley, the bok choy may be simply steamed.
Simply stir-fried bok choy can be served with soba noodles and some sort of sauce, such as peanut sauce. Here is another simple stir-fry recipe; here is a spicy one; here is one with peanuts; here is a Chinese bok choy stir fried with shrimp; another with scallops; and here's another with miso dressing.
Bok choy can be substituted for spinach in chapchae—Korean sweet potato noodles—which is very easy to prepare. There are lots of variations for this recipe on the web, like this, this, this, or this. The noodles can be eaten relatively cool, so this might be more summery than some other greens recipes. The noodles are available through Amazon or are likely sold at HMart. The vegetables would also taste good with rice or rice noodles.
Deborah Madison's curry with bok choy, sweet potatoes and shallots sounds like a great summer-into-fall dish.
Bok choy can also be used in soup similar to how one would use spinach (the bok choy leaves) or cabbage (the bok choy stems), as in this chicken soup.
Bok choy can also be added to wonton soup.
- Try a slaw made from thinly-sliced bok choy.
- Also, try simply roasting the bok choy.
- Add bok choy to fried rice.