Bok Choy is the most commonly used leafy vegetable in Chinese cooking. Bok Choy, also spelt as bak choi, paak choi, or baak choy and popularly known as Chinese cabbage or mustard cabbage, is characterized by thick white stalks and smooth, dark green leaves that form a cluster on the top, quite similar to mustard and celery leaves. Scientifically known as Brassica rapa chinensis, Bok choy is closely related to common cabbage and belongs to the same species of vegetables as turnip. Owing to its delicately sweet flavor and crisp texture, Bok Choy dishes are quite popular globally; some famous Bok Choy recipes include deep fried Bok Choy, Green dumplings, and Chicken Stir-fry.
History of Bok Choy and Culinary Significance of Bok Choy Recipes
Bok Choy, according to historical and archeological evidence, was first cultivated in the Yangtze River Delta region of ancient China. The Chinese later introduced this vegetable to Korea around the 14th century and the Japanese soldiers who had fought in China during the Russo-Japanese war brought Bok Choy to Japan during the early 20th century. Though, Bok Choy was introduced to Europe and America in the 18th century; the Western cuisines, until recently, were not too forthcoming in opening up to Bok Choy recipes. However, today, Bok Choy is commonly used as a more exotic substitute for cabbage in several dishes.
Culinary Uses of Bok Choy
Bok Choy is an extremely adaptable vegetable, which works well with a variety of other vegetables and meats. As a result, it has been an ingredient of choice for centuries in all kinds of Oriental recipes, including soup, salads, stir fries, pot stickers, steamed buns, dumplings and as stuffing for spring rolls and vegetable balls. Steamed or blanched whole Bok Choy is at times used as entrée or side dish. In Western cooking, most cabbage recipes can easily be modified into Bok Choy dishes.
Popular Bok Choy Recipes from Around the World
Though Bok Choy is easily available globally, it is still considered as an Asian ingredient and the few Bok Choy dishes found in the Western cuisines are actually modified versions of cabbage or celery based recipes. Here is a list of popular Bok Choy based recipes from around the world:
- Chinese: The Chinese have been using this ingredient for several centuries now. Bok Choy appears in all forms of Chinese cooking. Some popular Chinese Bok Choy Recipes include Bok Choy Stir-Fry, Spring rolls, Chow Young Bok Choy, and Bok Choy & Beef filled dumplings.
- Oriental: With the heavy Chinese influence throughout the Orient, almost all cuisines here use Bok Choy in one form or the other. Sukiyaki from Japan, Bulgogi with Bok Choy and Bok Choy Kimchee from Korea, and Bok Choy curry from Thailand are some popular Bok Choy recipes.
- Other Cuisines: Though not a traditionally used ingredient in West, with globalization many dishes, today, have been modified to substitute ingredients like cabbage and celery with Bok Choy. Some such Bok Choy dishes include St Patrick's Day Green stew, Grilled Laulau, Garden Vegetable Soup, and Bok Choy Coleslaw.
Common Methods of Preparing Bok Choy Recipes
Bok Choy is a highly versatile vegetable that can be eaten both raw and cooked. To prepare raw Bok Choy dishes, cut and discard the lower hard section of the plant and wash the rest in cold water. Since, the leaves are tenderer than stalks; they need to be treated separately. While the leaves can be just torn or cut into bite sized pieces and thrown in salads or soups, the stalks must be properly chopped before use. Bok Choy requires very little cooking. Fast cooking techniques like blanching, steaming, and stir-frying are the preferred ways for cooking Bok Choy. Since, Bok Choy leaves are tender and cook very fast, most Bok Choy recipes use only the stalk portion. If both stalk and leaves are to be used, it is recommended to cook the stalks first and add the leaves right at the end of the cooking process.
Nutritive Value of Bok Choy
Bok Choy is a rich source of Calcium, and vitamin A & C. Due to its high water content Bok Choy contributes to very less calories and has almost no traces of fat and cholesterol. Bok Choy is highly recommended in a weight watchers’ diet.
Tips for Buying and Storing Bok Choy
Bok Choy is available all year round in most grocery stores, however, being winter vegetables, they are best bought during fall and winter months. When selecting Bok Choy, choose the ones with firm yet tender white stalks and fresh dark green leaves. Avoid plants with brown spots, wilted leaves, or visible signs or rot. Once bought either use them immediately or store in the crisper section of the refrigerator. They will last for 3-4 days in a fridge and up to 12 months in freezer.
Ingredients Related to Bok Choy Napa cabbage is the other form of Chinese cabbage which is closely related to Bok Choy. There are very few differences between the two, with Napa cabbage having lighter colored leaves, which unlike Bok Choy, are tightly wrapped into a compact head.
Non Food Uses of Bok Choy
The traditional Chinese healers have used Bok Choy to treat several medical conditions like common cold and siniusitis.
Bok Choy: Trivia
In 2009, an elderly woman, who had been regularly consuming 2 to 4 pounds of raw Bok Choy daily developed toxicity to the vegetable, which resulted in a condition called Myxedema coma.