The Joy of Bok Choy

bok_choy

The following is an excerpt from Whole Foods Companion: A Guide for Adventurous Cooks, Curious Shoppers, and Lovers of Natural Foods by Dianne Onstad. It has been adapted for the Web.

Chinese Cabbage (Brassica chinensis, B. rapa)

The Latin name Brassica derives from the Celtic bresic; chinensis designates the plant’s Chinese origins.

General Information

Long appreciated for its delicate flavor and crisp texture, Chinese cabbage has been cultivated since before the Christian era. It has been described as a cabbage that even cabbage haters love—it is crisper, juicier, sweeter, and more tender than common cabbage. There are several varieties of Chinese cabbage, the two most popular being bok choy and Pe-tsai. All form a head, but the head varies from round like cabbage to elongated like romaine lettuce; also, the crinkly leaves may curl inward or outward.

Buying Tips

In most markets, at least one form or another of Chinese cabbage is available year-round. Select fresh, light-colored greens with plump ribs. Squeeze the heads to find a firm, heavy one. Avoid those that have wilted leaves with any rot spots. Small dark specks, however, are naturally occurring. Chinese cabbage stores exceptionally well (but not so long as cabbage), and the flavor even improves when it is slightly wilted.

Culinary Uses

Chinese cabbage’s sweet flavor is enhanced with long simmering, and the leaves become silky soft but hold their form. Try it in soups and stews, baked, or braised. It’s also delicious when lightly cooked (stir-fried, steamed, or blanched) or even raw in a salad, where its thin, crispycrunchy leaves add great texture and make an excellent salad base on their own. The blanched leaf makes a flexible and excellent wrapper that is, compared to common cabbage, easier to work with yet more delicate. Pickled Chinese cabbage, kim chee, the signature dish of Korea, is as easy to make as sauerkraut, the pickled cabbage of equal prominence in German cuisine.

Health Benefits

Chinese cabbage is cooling and beneficial to the lungs, stomach, and liver channels. It also moistens the intestines and treats constipation. It is an anti-inflammatory and useful in cases of yellow mucus discharge and other heat symptoms, including fever. According to Oriental medicine, stalk vegetables raise energy and are expansive and cooling foods. All Brassica genus vegetables contain dithiolthiones, a group of compounds that have anticancer, antioxidant properties; indoles, substances that protect against breast and colon cancer; and sulfur, which has antibiotic and antiviral characteristics.

You may like...

Recent Articles

Ancient Fermentation: Homemade Kvass

Looking to add another recipe to your fermenting repertoire? Try your hand at Kvass. Bonus: it is the perfect entry-level project.   Kvass is an ancient and beloved beverage from Slavic Eastern Europe. While it is basically a low-alcohol beer, it is enjoyed as a soft drink, even by small children. This nourishing beverage calls for…

Read More

A Good Stock Takes Time: Setting Up Your Kitchen for Making Stocks and Broths

A good stock takes time. This is part of the pleasure—making stocks is meditative and meaningful, if you allow yourself the occasion. Building a stock often happens in the background of most kitchens—a smell that permeates a residence, a gentle warmth that radiates from the kitchen. Be inspired by Rachel Mamane’s approach to truly slow…

Read More

Chop, Salt, Pack, Wait: Four Simple Steps to Making the Best Sauerkraut on Earth

Making your own delicious, healthy, probiotic sauerkraut or kimchi is easy! Four easy steps are all you need to turn fresh garden veggies into a long-lasting, tangy, pungent condiment perfect to serve alongside sausage or eggs. Sandor Ellix Katz is the gregarious, mutton-chopped master of all things fermented, and his easygoing attitude will inspire you…

Read More

Bubbling Waters: Raspberry and Blueberry Soda

Now fermentation fans and home brewers can rediscover these “primitive” drinks and their unique flavors in The Wildcrafting Brewer. You’ll be surprised at how easy making your own natural drinks can be! One of the best ways to begin brewing is by dipping your toes in the bubbling waters of homemade soda. Mountain raspberry and blueberry soda…

Read More

Survive the Winter Blues: Grow, Eat and Plan

There is no denying it: the days are short and unless you planned for a winter garden, fresh vegetables from your backyard have long passed. But don’t let the winter get you down. There are plenty of recipes to last you through the cold season and into the ‘hungry gap’. And we’ve shared a few…

Read More