In classic southern Chinese style, this simple vegetable preparation allows the fresh produce to shine through. This is one of my favorite ways to eat vegetables: tender-crisp, flavored in its own juices (au jus, perhaps?).
After cleaning, bok choy should be prepared to maximize the unique characteristics of the leaves and allow it to cook evenly. I like to cut off the thick white stem with a v-cut, as shown below. [Note that this dish uses bok choy, not baby bok choy. You can cook baby bok choy similarly, just change the vegetable preparation: cut the small heads in half and stir fry, or remove each leaf from the center stalk and stir fry.]
I then take the stem (sometimes cut it in half or quarters lengthwise) and slice this into pieces with knife, held at a 45° angle (more for looks than anything else). We will use the white stems first as they are thicker and will take more time to cook through than the leafy parts. The leaves are then cut into more manageable strips (they cook down like spinach, so keeping the pieces relatively large is fine). Note that everything is added in batches, in order to keep the internal temperature in the pan high — this is key for stir fries!
The result is a simple dish, lightly and evenly cooked, fragrant with ginger and garlic. A pinch of salt enhances the flavor. Traditionally this would be one part of a multi-dish dinner, with rice.
Chinese Stir-Fried Bok Choy
Serves 4 as a side dish in a multi-dish meal
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, minced
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 large head bok choy, prepared as described above
- 1/2 cup water
- In a large saucepan or wok, heat oil on high till shimmering. Add in garlic and ginger and stir fry a few minutes until lightly golden. Do not let them burn!
- Add half of chopped bok choy stalks, and cook a 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, allowing the internal pan temperature to heat back up. Push cooked stems to the side, fill center with the remaining stalks, and repeat until all stems are slightly tender but still crisp.
- Add in half the chopped bok choy leaves and 1/4 cup water, allowing water to steam the leaves while stir frying. The leaves will cook down very quickly, so when their color brightens and they are just starting to get limp, add the remaining leaves and stir fry. Add additional 1/4 cup water if necessary.
- Salt to taste, remove from heat and serve immediately.