Pak Choi – Almost Instant

Pak choi is a most useful vegetable:

  • It’s available all year round so you can plan it in without wondering if will be stocked or not.
  • It’s not expensive.
  • It is super-easy and quick to cook.
  • And it adds a slightly exotic Chinese aura to whatever food it accompanies – that’s one of the reasons I paired it with this month’s duck and soy sauce recipe.
  • It keeps its crisp texture and shape and it has a delicate taste – not as aggressive as cabbage.
  • It’s healthy. It ranks sixth best out of all fruit and vegetables for its Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (nutrient per calorie density essentially).

But it will only keep a few days in the fridge.

We should thank Jo Larkcom, author of Oriental Vegetables, for the availability of this vegetable (as well as other oriental greens) – she did a lot of the pioneering work required to get it more widely known, and to create a demand.

This is what you have to do for the simplest stir-fry method for pak choi:

Method for stir-frying pak choi

  1. Divide the green leaves from the white stems by simply cutting the pak choi in half – unless you are lucky enough to have found some miniature Pak Choi in which case they can be cooked whole (perhaps cut them vertically in half).
  2. Slice off the browning end of the stem half, then slice across the white stems horizontally, at 1 cm/½” intervals. Stir fry the sliced stems in sesame oil (add a few sesame seeds if you have any to hand; pine nuts are also good) for about a minute.
  3. Shred the green leaves by simply slicing them across, add to the wok, stir fry for another minute.
  4. Shake over some good quality soy sauce.

TaDa!

how to stir fry pak choi

For a slightly more intriguing recipe try stir frying it with purple sprouting, peanuts, and mange tout.

For a post on Tatsoi, follow this link.

For a post on which soy sauce is best, follow this link.

When did Pak Choi reach China

Essential Techniques identifies a number of foreign foods gaining ground in the Chinese centre, arriving like Buddhism from the West. It contains, for example, the earliest reference to a form of cabbage that is today known as ‘the white vegetable’ (bai cai). Today we think of it as a ‘Chinese’ vegetable, and most Western countries refer to it by some variant on its Cantonese pronunciation, bak choi.

Jonathan Clements, The Emperor’s Feast. Essential Techniques, Clements tells us, is the most influential book on the history of Chinese food, since for many processes, foods and recipes it is the earliest surviving work. The book was completed around 544 AD.

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