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 blanch-and-shock method for pak choi:

Blanch-and-shock method for pak choi

  1. Cut the pak choi vertically in half, or in quarters, depending on the size.
  2. Plunge into boiling salted water for a minute or two.
  3. Rinse for less than a minute under ice-cold water. Drain.
  4. Serve with a dressing of equal parts good-quality soy (or tamari) sauce and sesame oil. Sprinkle with furikake or toasted sesame seeds.

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.


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.
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Posts

What are lotus seeds and how are they used?

Dried lotus seeds (also known sometimes as lotus nuts) are used most usually in Chinese and Japanese pastries and puddings, or in soups. Crystallised lotus…
Read More

What is a bitter gourd and what can you do with it?

“He offered me a dish of bitter melon cooked with hot peppers.‘How does it taste?’ he wondered.I had never eaten such a…
Read More

Grapefruit Pip Tea

In my stocking this year my daughter (aka ‘elf’ – see left-over pasta) secreted two tins of tea she’d collected when last in Shanghai.
Read More

Sign up to our Saucy Newsletter

subscribe today for monthly highlights of foodie events, new restaurant at home menus, recipe ideas and our latest blog posts