‘Ho Ma. Which means Hello in Cantonese.’ So glad you came. My name is Bok Choy, but I’m also called white Chinese cabbage, and I belong to the leafy vegetable pak choi family of Chinese brassicas. My family and our relatives can seem bewildering to some people because we come in many different types, have many names which may even have different spellings depending where we come from. Our other names include Chinese White Cabbage, Chinese Chard, Chinese Mustard Cabbage, Pak Choi – as I said Confuc…no, no, no… confusing!
Let me tell you about my immediate family, so you will recognise us in the shops. We have white or green, thick, crunchy stems with light to dark green wide leaves. All parts of us are eaten.
We’re at our best before and after Easter and in the months leading up to Christmas.
We’re sold by type rather than variety, either as the white stemmed type (30cm long) or the light green stemmed type or Shanghai bok choy (15cm). A smaller more compact type (5-7cm) with white stems and dark green leaves is sold as baby bok choy. All three types are commonly sold in Australia.
We’re essentially a cool season crop and grow best in the spring and autumn. Our seeds are sown directly into rich organic soil and start to germinate 5 to 10 days later.
We’re a fast-maturing vegetable (which means we grow quickly) ready to harvest 6 to 7 weeks after sowing. We’re then harvested by hand in the morning (or in cool weather) to prevent our leaves from wilting.
Select those of us with fresh, bright green leaves and crisp, pale green stems.
Keep us in the refrigerator in the vegetable crisper or in a paper bag. Use within 2 days.
My pak choi family of brassicas have been grown in China since the 5th century and from there we have spread throughout the remainder of Asia.
We were little known in Europe until seeds were sent there in the late 18th century. In Australia Chinese migrants, who arrived during the 1850’s Gold Rush, brought their traditional vegetables with them. When the gold petered out, many Chinese became market gardeners growing the pak choi family and other leafy green vegetables. Chinese market gardens still exist around the capital cities today.
We are now grown in Europe, Australia, North and South America and parts of Africa.
Our leaves and young, tender stems can be steamed, boiled, stir-fried or microwaved until just wilted, 2-3 minutes. With our slight mustard taste we’re often used in Asian dishes.
Baby bok choy is also available.
Bok Choy And Vegetable Salad
Steam bok choy until wilted. Cool and mix with broccoli, asparagus, baby corn, thinly sliced red capsicum, thinly sliced water chestnuts and shallots. Season French dressing with sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic. Drizzle over salad with roasted cashews.
Bok Choy Quiche
Pan-fry one bunch of chopped bok choy leaves and one diced onion until soft. Drain and spread in prepared pastry case. Sprinkle with tasty cheese. Mix 2 beaten eggs, 2/3 cups cream and 1/3 cup milk and pour over bok choy. Bake in moderate oven for 35 minutes or until filling is set.
Bok Choy Stir-fry
Stir-fry 1 clove minced garlic with 3 cups of chopped vegetables (carrot, celery, capsicum, zucchini, snow peas, beans) in 2 tablespoons peanut oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Add 1 bunch chopped bok choy and cook until just wilted. Stir in 2 tablespoons salt-reduced soy sauce and 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce. Serve hot sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds. Pan-fry beef, chicken or fish for added variety.