Asian · Chinese · Made with Love Mondays · Savoury · The Spice Trail · Vegetarian

Steamed Crispy Shanghai Bok Choy in Ginger Garlic Sauce

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 😉

1. Steamed baby bok choy_fresh 

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)


Garnishing –

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.

2. Steamed baby bok choy_quartered 

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.

3. Steamed baby bok choy_ginger+garlic+marinade 

Sauté the minced garlic and grated ginger until fragrant

 4. Steamed baby bok choy_sauté 

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.

5. Steamed baby bok choy_check thickness6. Steamed baby bok choy_right consistency 

Remove the steamed Shanghai bok choy from the steamer and arrange them on a serving plate.

7. Steamed baby bok choy_steamed done 10 mins8. Steamed baby bok choy_arranged on 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!

 9. Steamed baby bok choy_platter1

9. Steamed baby bok choy_platter2

9. Steamed baby bok choy_platter3

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!


 AND –

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.



18 thoughts on “Steamed Crispy Shanghai Bok Choy in Ginger Garlic Sauce

  1. I’ve never see Shanghai Bok Choy before – the kind available locally near me is the standard bright-white/dark-green bok choy. This dish sounds delicious and love the sauce to coat…

  2. The white stem/ dark green leaves are Pak Choi/y😀. “Pak” means white and “choi” means veg. The white stalks are harder than these mild lime green stem bok Choy. I’m a fan of baby bok Choy. The white ones are used mostly in stir fries but you can steam them too but the cooking time between the stalks and leaves differ. The stalks require longer cooking/ steaming whilst the leaves wilt faster..

  3. Pls do add to your menu for May! Didn’t know there’s mushroom veg sauce – is it mushroom soya sauce? I think A is selling at 5€?

  4. Was thinking abt it 😉 If I’m lucky I get these fresh. If u see these nearer the date, give a shout! The veg can last only 5 days, staying crisp. You know I don’t like wilted and sick looking veg😜

    Yes, A has the tendency to sell at marginally high price. If it’s 5 Eur there then what I bought was a bargain 👍

  5. ADDITIONAL NOTE: Forgot to mention and also to all readers, I did NOT use salt or sugar. The soy sauce I used in this dish was a special light soy sauce of the Kikkoman brand (naturally brewed LESS SALT). If you are using the normal light soy sauce, you may want to reduce the measurement, because it can be quite salty.

  6. X, no it’s not Mushroom brand soy sauce. I used the Kikkoman LESS SALT naturally brewed light soy sauce. The mushroom thingy is the vegan or vegetarian substitute of the oyster sauce. You should try this because it does not hv that fishy after taste from the oyster sauce 😜

  7. I am simply drooling looking at this dish! Bok choy or pak choi or whatever it’s called (!) is a huge favourite with me. When can I come over for dinner? And a superb entry for this month’s Spice Trail challenge. Thank you so much for taking part 🙂

  8. Ha ha ha.. Thanks! You’re most welcome to come over for dinner 😄

    Glad you like this dish as much as I love cooking using ginger. Looking forward to your next spice trail challenge 😉

  9. Hi nasfriet,
    My 2 younger boys love bak choy too.
    I always cook something similar to yours, only I use low moist cooking and I did not add ginger.

    Yours looks so good. I will try out your marinade sauce soon.
    Have a wonderful weekend:)

  10. Thanks, Mui.😄
    Low moist cooking, I guess that’s similar to braising? I like to cook this veg briefly to retain the crunch and the colour .

    Pls know that I used Kikkoman naturally brewed LESS SALT light soy sauce and the vegan “oyster” sauce so both are less salty, hence I used 2 Tbsp each. The standard light soy sauce and oyster sauce are quite salty, so you may want to reduce the measurement😉

    BTW spring officially starts today with our clocks moving 1 hour forward, meaning we also slept one hour less😫

    Have a great weekend!

  11. I love chinese greens with oyster sauce. Thank you for the recipe! This month’s spice trail has been great, seeing what other people do with ginger

  12. Me too! I enjoy cooking using ginger. I know. Everyone who took up this challenge did a great job. You included😄. Noticed you have contributed a few. I have read your speculoos ice-cream and have left my comment. Not sure if it went through. I will need to use the other PC to clear my comments…. Will check this weekend.

    Also I’ve been reading your cheese-making adventure . You are so good and so patient.

  13. A lovely and healthy dish. We called this veggie Siew Pak Choy. The westerners call this as Bok Choy but never knew it is called Shanghai Bok Choy!! Haha!
    This is great with oyster sauce and stir-fries too, and pretty cheap over here. 🙂

  14. Yes, this is a lovely dish with no frills. Very straightforward and so healthy. The baby Kai lan I grew up eating used to be stir fried with oyster sauce. Loved it! The stems of these Shanghai bok Choy are less tough hence brief cooking or steaming is best😄

    I’m sure it’s sold cheap over there but Asian and exotic veg are like diamonds! I came across 4 or 5 plants of chai sim sold at Eur 5 (RM 25)! Chai sim (Choy sum) are so cheap back home . A few cents or RM 1… Well, tomatoes, potatoes and broccolis are cheaper here. You win some, you lose some😜

  15. I have never seen Kai Lan in Antwerp Chinatown, but I often buy either the white pak choy or the green one, usually cost 2,50 to 3,50 euro per kilo, depending on freshness. I didn’t realise the green one is called shanghai pak choy. Recently I bought some choy sum (cai xin) too. I think you can grow them in a mini greenhouse in your garden. My Chinese friend even gave me some mustard leaves she grew in her backyard in Belgium. Btw, I’m reminding you to go get a pot of spaanse peppers from Aveve. It’s time for growing some plants!

  16. Ha ha ha! Thanks for reminding me about the Spaanse pepers😄 I will definitely get a pot.

    Recently a colleague gave me a pot of kaffir lime leaves he grew from seeds. Now he has 8 or 9 pots and he gave one away… Will check if he has “extra” pots of little fiery chillies. I know he grows them, too. He brought the seeds from Indonesia so must be really really fiery😜

    Yeah, it’s hard to find Kai Lan here. I have seen chai sim but they are really quite pricey. The green stem bok Choy I bought were 5 plants for Eur 2.50 . Not sure abt the weight, though. Anyway I saw in another store sold these for Eur 3.50 for 3 plants, so what I got then was a bargain 😉

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