Photo: Keith Weller/USDA Agricultural Research Service
Bok choy is hard to mistake for any other vegetable. It’s a leafy cabbage with thick white stalks that sprout up into large green leaves. Even baby bok choy look like miniatures of the regular varietal.
If you’ve never tasted this vegetable, its flavors are subtle with slightly less crunch than celery and many fewer teeth-catching strings. “Unlike so many leafy greens, bok choy doesn’t shrink down to nothing when cooked,” notes a Cooks Illustrated how-to about it. “When cooked fully [it] becomes creamy, with an almost meat-like texture and an underlying sweetness. In contrast, the leaves become tender and soft, having an earthy, robust flavor similar to that of chard or even spinach.”
So what’s the best way to cook it? Fair or not, in my head, bok choy is synonymous with stir-fry. In fact, most dishes this vegetable evokes are of Asian origin. Given the leafy green’s origin itself—it is one of dozens of Chinese cabbages—it makes sense. And it’s not a bad thing in the least.
Start by prepping the cabbage. Cut off the bottom and then separate the leaves from the stalks. Wash everything and let it all air dry or, if you’re crunched for time, pat it dry with a paper towel. Cooks Illustrated recommends saut