Bok choy (also commonly written as bok choi, bak choy, or pac choi) is a traditional variety of Chinese cabbage. Bok choy is one of the most popular vegetables in China where it has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. Bok choy is sometimes referred to as a “soup spoon” because of the shape of its leaves. The name bok choy translates to “white vegetable” in Cantonese and dai bok choy translates to “big white vegetable” and refers to bok choy’s cousin, napa cabbage.
Bok Choy is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K. It is also a good source of folate, vitamin B6, and calcium. As with most greens, it is also low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Bok choy has an incredibly high nutrient density, and is considered one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables.
Buying & Storing
When buying bok choy, notice the differences in the varieties. True bok choy has white stems and dark green leaves. Shanghai bok choy has lighter green smooth leaves with pale green stems. True bok choy tends to be more expensive and flavorful, while Shanghai bok choy is more commonly found in America. Look for bulbs that have relatively firm stems and minimal wilting leaves. Sometimes you’ll find bok choy leaves with tiny holes, which is just minimal bug damage, and the bok choy is still perfectly good to eat.
Wrap bok choy in a damp towel or put it in a plastic bag, and place it in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Bok choy leaves will lose integrity and wilt if allowed to dry out, so you may have to replace the paper towel. Store for up to 1 week.
Preparation – fill a sink or bowl with cold water, dunk the bulb of bok choy upside down several times, and then lightly shake and let dry. You can also break the leaves off of the bulb, rinse them individually under cold running water, pat the leaves with a towel, and let dry. Remove any soil that might be in the crevices of the bok choy and rinse off any garden pests.
Raw – slice or chop the leaves and stems and add to salads, toss into slaws, or use as a topper for tacos. Toss the chopped leaves into soups, hot noodle dishes, or steamed rice. You can even use the whole leaves on a vegetable platter with hummus or dip.
Steam – place the leaves in a pot with a steamer basket over an inch of boiling water. Cover the pot and cook for 2-5 minutes, or until the leaves are tender. The leaves will cook first so you can remove the stems from the leaves and steam them separately.
Sauté – toss the whole leaves into a skillet or sauté pan with some sesame oil and cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes until the leaves wilt. Be careful not to overcook the leaves. If you want the stems to be more tender, cut stems from the leaves and begin sautéing them first, then add the leaves once the stems are almost done.
Stir-fry – separate the bok choy stems and leaves, place the stems in your hot pan with some oil and other vegetables, cook until tender (or until meat is cooked through) and golden brown, then add the leaves at the end. Serve with noodles or rice.
Grill – pull whole leaves off the bulb of bok choy (the bigger the leaves the better) and lightly brush them in a mixture of sesame oil and lemon juice. Place on the upper rack of your grill or around the edge of your single rack (you don’t want them over direct heat). Grill until they have some nice char marks and are a vibrant green. Use as a bed for grilled chicken or fish, or serve as a side with some lemon garlic yogurt. You can also grill heads of bok choy that have been cut in half lengthwise.