Introducing one of my favorite all-time vegetables – Bok Choy! You may see many supermarket labels for this vegetable such as pak choi, bok choi, and pak choy, but they all refer to the same vegetable. It may also be categorized under the generic term ‘Chinese cabbage’.
Although there are many different varieties of Bok Choy that can be cultivated, these are the two main types of Bok Choy we see in the stores today: traditional true Bok Choy and Shanghai Bok Choy. The term for true Bok Choy is ‘小白菜‘ in Chinese which means ‘small white vegetable’, and the term for Shanghai Bok Choy is ‘上海青’ in Chinese which means ‘Shanghai green’. The traditional Bok Choy is larger with thicker white stems and dark green leaves, while Shanghai Bok Choy tends to be smaller with lighter green leaves and pale green stems.
Packed with a Nutrient Punch
Bok Choy is a cruciferous vegetable that is a member of the cabbage family and it is packed full of nutrients! It contains vitamins A, C, and K and is also a good source of calcium, potassium, iron and folate. Although it’s not orange in color, it comes packed with beta carotene! In fact there’s 4330 ug beta carotene and 7220 international units (IU) of vitamin A in just one cooked cup! One cup of boiled shredded Bok Choy (170g) also gives 2.65 grams of protein, 1.7 grams of fiber, 158 milligrams of calcium, 1.77 milligrams of iron, 631 milligrams of potassium, 44.2 milligrams of vitamin C, 69.7 micrograms of total folate, 64.6 micrograms of lutein + zeaxanthin and 57.8 micrograms of vitamin K. Bok Choy is also one of a special group of vegetables with good calcium bioavailability, meaning that a good portion of its calcium content is absorbed by the body when eaten – in fact its calcium bioavailability is better than that from cow’s milk!
How to Pick Bok Choy
At the store, buy Bok Choy that has nice fresh crisp green leaves, without moldy or spoiled parts on the leaves. The stems should be firm and not rubbery and soft. Once purchased, store the Bok Choy at home refrigerated in the original store packaging (enclose the Bok Choy vegetables in the plastic packaging well with as little air as possible) for up to 5 days. Before using, rinse the leaves and stems well under cool running water, then let dry in a colander before chopping into bite-sized segments.
How to Cook Bok Choy
Both types of Bok Choy can be used in stir-fries, in soups, steamed, sautéed or lightly stewed. They can also be eaten raw in a salad or coleslaw! One of my favorite ways to enjoy Bok Choy is to stir-fry it lightly with a little bit of oil, garlic, Chinese cooking wine and a small dash of salt. I usually put the chopped stems first into a pot to stir-fry for a minute or two before adding in the chopped leaves. The key is not to overcook these chopped pieces if you want a crispier texture. Cook the pieces just until the stems become tender and creamy, and the cooked leaves should still look bright and fresh (you can taste test a piece or two to see if they are done). Then remove from the stove promptly and serve as a delicious side vegetable dish!
My favorite is the Shanghai Bok Choy because that is form commonly eaten in my home growing up and also often ordered at Asian restaurants when eating out: whole heads of the baby Shanghai Bok Choy vegetable sautéed with some Shiitake mushrooms in a rich brown sauce…yum!
If you’ve had Bok Choy before, what’s your favorite way to enjoy Bok Choy? Do share in the comments below!