In Praise of Bok Choi

Updated: Jul 18

Very mellow, with its own unique flavor, Bok Choi is a Chinese veggie whose name has many spellings in English. You can find it labeled bok choy, pak choi, or pok choi, yóu cài ("oil vegetable" in Mandarin), qīng cài (blue-green vegetable" in Shanghai) and probably even other names.

You may have already eaten bok choi and you didn't realize it. It's that tasty, crispy stuff that you get in a lot of Chinese dishes that looks a little like celery but doesn't taste like it.

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Bok Choi is a member of a family of vegetables known as a cruciferous, or "cross-bearing" vegetables. They are called that because of the shape of their flowers, whose four petals resemble a cross. Other cruciferae include cauliflower, cabbage, kale, garden cress, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.


Bok Choi is sometimes known as Chinese cabbage. Unlike other vegetables that we commonly know as cabbages, bok choi does not grow into heads. It has green leafy blades above lighter colored, bulbous and crunchy bottoms. To confuse us further, there are different types of bok choi, mostly related to their overall size but sometimes related to their time of harvest.


REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD EAT BOK CHOI

I’ll bet you didn’t know that there are many reasons why you ought to incorporate bok choi into

your diet.

I think bok choi can be used in any style of cooking, not just Asian dishes. Which brings me to my favorite reason why I recommend it. To me, it is just plain Crunchy and Delicious.


But if you need more reason than that, then read on.





It is Very low in calories (it fills you up without making it permanent )


It has Substantial Health Benefits such as Cancer Prevention

  • Studies have shown that some people who eat more cruciferous vegetables have a lower risk of developing lung, prostate, and colon cancer.

  • Bok choy contains folate. Folate plays a role in the production and repair of DNA, so it might prevent cancer cells from forming due to mutations in the DNA.

It is Loaded with nutrition

  • Bok choy also contains vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. These nutrients have powerful antioxidant properties that help protect cells against damage by Free Radicals (and possibly also religious zealots)

  • Unlike most other fruits and vegetables, bok choy contains the mineral selenium.

  • Selenium helps to detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body. Selenium also prevents inflammation and decreases tumor growth rates.

It aids in digestive health because they provide fiber.

  • Fiber keeps your stools moving. This keeps the bowel healthy and reduces the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

  • Fibrous foods also feed healthy gut bacteria, which affects overall health, metabolism, and digestion.



WHERE TO GET IT

Most American supermarkets that carry bok choy will only have one kind. The green-leaf, long white-stalk variety that is 8-12 inches in height. This is the kind I usually used until I started shopping at Asian markets. The best ones weigh in the 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 pound range. Anything bigger will be tough and spongy. Better to buy 2 smaller ones if you need a lot.

The Asian markets will boggle your mind with three or four different vegetables that are all labeled “bok choy”. That’s if you’re lucky enough to go to a market that has labels in English. Many don’t.



You might see Bok Choy, Baby Bok Choy, Shanghai Bok Choy, Bok Choy Sum (with little edible flowers in the center of the leaves. The thing to remember is this … They are all good and you pretty much can’t go wrong.



Bonus for reading this far…


The leaves can be eaten raw in a salad. It can be stir fried, braised, steamed, sauteéd, or simmered in soups, it is one of the most versatile and greens you can buy and I love it.


Like other leafy greens, the best way to store it is in a loosely sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. Never wash your bok choy until just before you are ready to cook it.

Here’s a Bok Choi recipe that you just might like a lot.

It is very basic and quick to prepare. The hardest part is going to the store. But, if you’re like me, that’s actually part of the fun of cooking.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds bok choy or baby bok choy

  • 2 tablespoons of canola, vegetable or peanut oil

  • 2 cloves of minced garlic

  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

  • 3 tablespoons of LIQUID for steaming (water, chicken/beef stock or cooking wine

  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Instructions

  1. Trim the bottom half inch of the stem off - don't trim too much - just the part that was in the dirt. Separate out the leaves, keep the tender center intact. Wash and clean bok choy.  

  2. Finely mince the garlic. Grate fresh ginger with a microplane grater. Grating the ginger helps break up the tough fibers.

  3. Place wok or saute pan on your stove and pour in the cooking oil. Add the garlic and ginger.

  4. Turn the heat to medium-high.

  5. Gently sauté the ginger and garlic in the oil. When they become fragrant and turn a light golden brown, add the bok choy leaves. Toss them very well to coat each leaf with the garlicky, gingery oil.

  6. After about 30 seconds, pour in the LIQUID. Immediately cover and let cook for 1 minute. Season with soy sauce and drizzle a bit of sesame oil on top.

  7. I like to sprinkly toasted white or black sesame seeds on top to give it a finishing touch


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