Bok choy, or brassica chinensis to use its scientific name, is classified as a cabbage. Nonetheless, bok choy bears little resemblance to the round European cabbages found in western supermarkets, or to Napa Cabbage for that matter. Its white stalks resemble celery without the stringiness, while the dark green, crinkly leaves of the most common variety is similar to Romaine lettuce. The Chinese commonly refer to bok choy as pak choi or "white vegetable." Another common name is white cabbage.
Bok choy is widely popular in the Philippines, where large numbers of Chinese immigrated following Spain's conquest of the islands in the 1500's. You'll sometimes find bok choy replacing cabbage in pancit, a Philippine noodle dish, and in kimchi, a Korean hot pickle made with garlic and red peppers. Bok choy or pak kwahng toong also appears in Thai recipes.
Mention the word bok choy, and most of us think of the plant with dark green leaves; however, in Hong Kong over twenty varieties are available. You can also find Shanghai or baby bok choy, a miniaturized version of bok choy, at Asian markets. Cookbook author and television show host Martin Yan notes that westerners have a "bigger is better" philosophy when it comes to Chinese vegetables. The opposite holds true in China, where the smaller varieties are valued for their tenderness. An added benefit is that recipes often call for them to be cooked whole, reducing preparation time.
Stir Fried Baby Bok Choi
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