What is Pak Choy?
Pak choy is a vegetable which has been cultivated in China for thousands of years. In addition to being widely used in Chinese cuisine, this vegetable is very popular in other parts of Asia as well. Many English speakers know pak choy as bok choy or pak choi, thanks to disagreement about how the Chinese word for this vegetable should be transliterated. Whatever you call it, this is a very versatile, tender, flavorful vegetable which can be used in a wide assortment of dishes.
This vegetable is also sometimes called “Chinese cabbage,” a reference to the fact that it is classified in the Brassica genus, to which cabbages belong. Brassicas are also members of the mustard family, and they have a distinctive tangy, somewhat spicy flavor as a result. Brassica chinensis, as pak choy is more formally known, comes in a wide variety of sizes and colors, thanks to the development of specific cultivars.
Classic pak choy has white, crunchy stems and dark green leaves, both of which are edible. In China, the smaller the vegetable is, the more favorably it is viewed, because smaller plants tend to be more tender. Outside of China, some cooks seek out larger versions, as they are under the impression that bigger is better, but if you can obtain smaller vegetables, you may find that they are much more tasty; many markets sell young pak choy as “baby pak choy,” and it is growing easier to find. Big pak choy bunches tend to be woody and lacking in flavor.
Tender young pak choy only needs to be cooked very briefly, and the leaves take even less time to cook than the stems. Most cooks separate leaves and stems, throwing the leaves into a dish at the last minute to lightly wilt them before serving. The stalks can be allowed to cook a bit longer than the leaves, although many people favor a brief cooking time to leave the stalks crunchy and tender, rather than allowing them to soften.
Many cooks like to use this vegetable in stir fries, and it can also be used in soups, curries, spring rolls, and a variety of other dishes. Its flavor is very mild, with a hint of a tangy bite which betrays its place in the mustard family, and this vegetable is also very healthy. It is high in calcium, like other Brassicas, and it also has high levels of vitamins A and C.
I cook mine by first cutting the leaves from the stems. I then cut the stems lengthways so that they are in smaller strips. I put in some sesame oil into the wok on medium heat, then throw in some diced ginger, then throw in the stems. Let them cook for a minute or so then throw in the leaves with a splash of water and soy sauce. Put the lid on the wok for a minute then open it up and throw in some diced cashews and the noodles (my choice of noodle is hakubaku ramen as it won't break apart in the pan and has a nice flavor). Turn up the heat for another two minutes and it's done (all the water/soy sauce should not still be at the bottom of the wok). Nice and tasty and easy to make.
I also don't get pak choy that is too large because it can be a bit stringy and not that pleasant to eat. The smaller the better as it will cook faster and have a nicer texture.
How about steaming it, instead of boiling? It should go fairly quickly, and without the overcooked quality of boiling too long.
One of the best things about adding pak choy to your diet is that it has very few calories and is packed with antioxidants. It is also one of the few foods that is low enough in carbohydrates to be good enough for a truly low-carb diet.
For women who are pregnant pak choy is a great source of folic acid. It has been shown in studies that there is a possibility of pak choy preventing birth defects and improving the heart health of the mother.
Anyone can benefit from pak choy in their diet and it is easy enough to add. Just toss it into a salad or put it in your stews.
I remember picking up pak choy at an Asian food market a few years ago and trying to cook it at home. I just followed some simple directions online and ended up boiling it. To be honest the pak choy turned out really bland and a bit too watery. I ended up tossing the whole plant into the trash.
Having recently tried it again in a stir fry I was pleasantly surprised to find it was rich and had a nice texture. I think the problem I had was that I left it in the water too long and the pak choy got soggy.
Has anyone managed to boil pak choy without it getting soggy? Do you have any tips?
I have only had pak choy a couple of times, because it seems hard to find in my area. It is really good though, especially if you stir fry it and add things like flax, sesame, or any other kind of organic seeds. It also adds a lot of flavor to tofu, which I like eating but can rarely find really good ingredients to add to it to give it taste.
I have a rabbit who loves pak choy! I give her the green pak choy leaves when I buy some for stir fry and she eats it all up.
Some people say that pak choy is not good for rabbits but my rabbit has not had any problems. I think pak choy is just as safe as cabbage and broccoli for rabbits and those are the other two veggies that my rabbit has regularly.
Plus, I don't give it every single day, more like once or twice a month. It's kind of a treat for her.
@ysmina-- Try making a salad with it with noodles, almonds and sesame seeds. It will be delicious.
I don't mind having plain stir fry pak choy (also written as bok choi)but I stir fry it with olive oil, salt and garlic. It tastes good. Those three ingredients can make a huge difference.
Even though I didn't know anything about pak choy, I bought one at the organic market just to see what it was like. I love cabbage, I can have it in any shape or form and I figured that pak choy was very similar.
As the article said, the pak choy I had was not very tasty because it was a large one. I didn't know that small ones are tastier. I also didn't add any other vegetables or any spices in it because I wanted to taste it plain stir fried.
I didn't like it too much this way. I think it would be much better if it was stir fried with several other vegetables or maybe made into a salad. The smaller pak choy might be better boiled or stir fried alone. But I personally wouldn't recommend it for large pak choy.
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