If there’s one vegetable that topped my family’s order list of meals ordered at Chinese restaurants back in Kuching that would undoubtedly be baby kai-lan, stir-fried with ginger, garlic and oyster sauce. So simple and yet so delicious!
Kai-lan is also known as Chinese broccoli or Chinese kale. I could eat a plate of this baby kai-lan all by myself. Yes, it’s THAT good!
A needle in a haystack with an ambiguous substitute…
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to find baby kai-lan in the Asian stores in Belgium, at least where I live. I have tried preparing broccoli mimicking the recipe of the baby kai-lan, but it just did not taste the same 😦
And THEN I found a substitute in one of the most ambiguous vegetables. Is it pak choi or bok choy? Most people (including many chefs) have been using both words to refer to the same vegetable, which is rather confusing.
I am very sure there is a difference because I am more familiar with Hokkien. Pak choi (Cantonese) or pek chai (Hokkien) is literally translated as “white vegetable”. But the ones I bought recently were NOT white.
Will the real pak choi please raise your hand, erm… I meant leaf?
By the way, the true pak choi has snow-white stalks and dark green leaves with ruffled edges, but they were NOT the ones I bought recently.
The young bunch I bought recently had pale lime green, short, spoon-like and chunky stalks with light green leaves. I discovered the correct name for this veg is Shanghai bok choy or green-stem bok choy, while in the commercial world today they are popularly labelled as baby bok choy.
I will call my little gems with its correct name – Shanghai bok choy 😉
The texture of the leaves and stalks is crisp. The young Shanghai bok choy can be eaten raw in salads, but nothing beats a briefly (yes, very briefly, please…) cooked Shanghai bok choy.
Full steam ahead!
You can cook the Shanghai bok choy anyway you like – stir-fried, boiled, braised, steamed, stewed or in soups. I prefer mine, steamed with drizzles of homemade sauce, and served immediately. Sinfully delicious!Ingredients – Serves 4-5
A bunch of fresh Shanghai bok choy of 5 plants, quartered and wash away any grits and grimes in between the crevices of the stalks
For sautéing –3 cm piece ginger, grated 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 Tbsp cooking oil (I used olive oil)
Marinade –8 – 10 Tbsp water 2 Tbsp naturally brewed “less salt” soy sauce 2 Tbsp Mushroom vegetable sauce (vegetarian oyster sauce) 1 Tbsp Shaohsing wine (optional – but it really made the difference ;-)) 1 Tbsp corn flour 1 tsp sesame oil Freshly milled white pepper (optional)
Crispy fried onions (optional, only if you want a bit of crunch)
The Acid Test …
Let me walk you through the method in preparing this uncomplicated and delectable dish in snapshots 😀
Steam the Shanghai bok choy for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the type of steamer you have.
While the veg is busy steaming, prepare your ingredients for sautéing. There are only 2 main ingredients – ginger and garlic, both grated. At the same time, prepare the marinade for the sauce.
Sauté the minced garlic and grated ginger until fragrant
Pour the marinade in the pan and stir well. You will notice the sauce starting to thicken (from the corn flour) and becomes glossier. At this point, it is important to check how thick or thin you want your sauce to be. Add some water to thin the sauce, if necessary. I prefer mine not too thick and lumpy, but still quite thick and not too runny.
Remove the steamed Shanghai bok choy from the steamer and arrange them on a serving plate.
Drizzle the cooked sauce over the steamed Shanghai bok choy and garnish with some crispy fried onions. And that’s it, really – an honest and healthy plate. Delish!
Oh, by the way, I bought the bunch of the Shanghai bok choy (5 plants) for Eur 2.50. I am not sure if that is expensive or not, but I thought it could have been cheaper, as the vegetable grows all year round. Anyway, that does not stop me from going back for more 😉
I’m definitely linking this post to the following events –
1) For the first time and definitely, not the last, to Bangers & Mash’s The Spice Trail: cooking with ginger. I was intrigued by the choice of Vanesther Rees’ March’s theme of one of my favourite spices – GINGER!
2) As well as to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays: Week of 24th Mar 2014.
I promised to come back and I did 😀
Enjoy the rest of the week.