Bok Choy

Bok Choy

Latin name: Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis 
Other names: pak choi
Uses: vegetable

Best known as the green leafy vegetable floating in your bowl of wonton noodle soup, bok choy is one of dozens of subspecies of Brassica rapa, closely related to turnip, Napa cabbage, and rapini. It comes in various forms: green or white petioles, long-stemmed or baby, even some types with ruffly leaves. In Asian markets it’s typically sold in large bags, which commits you to at least a few good meals. Kept in the crisper drawer, it’ll stay fresh for about a week. 

Why is bok choy healthy?

Like all brassicas, bok choy is seriously good for your body and mind: a significant source of polyphenols that also provides vitamin A and C, phytonutrients, and minerals like iron, calcium, manganese, and folate. These tasty and crisp green leafies may also potentially help reduce cancer risk, improve bone strength, alleviate stress, enhance cognitive health, and promote heart health. 

What does bok choy taste like?

Bok choy has a toothsome texture, and the leaves have a pleasant, subtle bitterness (though it’s much less bitter than rapini). The stems are watery and crisp, with long fibers; the stems can be a bit hard to chew when left whole. 

Where does bok choy grow?

Bok choy has been cultivated in China since the 5th century AD, and China still produces vastly more bok choy than any other country. California produces the majority of American-grown bok choy, but it can be grown as winter crop in the average cooler-climate garden. 

How do I prepare bok choy and what do I pair it with?

Bok choy must be washed thoroughly to remove soil and grit from the base of the leaves; cutting them in half lengthwise and soaking in a few changes of water should do the trick. Like other Chinese greens, bok choy is a great foil for salty and savory dishes, and has an affinity for aromatics like ginger, garlic, scallion, and sesame oil. It also plays beautifully with cream and miso in gratins and can be used interchangeably with other greens like kale or choy sum. Bok choy loves being braised, simmered, and stir-fried; the compact baby or dwarf forms are ideal for braising whole, as they’ll hold their shape — pair these with mushrooms or swab through your next hot pot. For stir-fries, you can use the full-size bok choy, but you’ll want to chop it into bite-sized pieces. Full-size specimens are also great in salads. 

Surprising fact: 

Bok choy is highly nutritious and current research is underway to test the cancer-and dementia-fighting effects of bok choy’s glucosinolates. However, as with anything, the cure (or poison) is in the dose — in high concentrations glucosinolates can also suppress thyroid function.