PAK CHOI | BOK CHOY (Brassica chinensis) 白菜
Pak Choi (Brassica chinensis) is a member of the mustard family. Pak Choi and its variations are amongst the most popular vegetables used in Chinese cooking in Hong Kong and parts of Southern China, is now commonplace in European cooking.
Also commonly known as 'bok choy', the broad green leaves, which taper to white stalks, are crisp and crunchy. The Cantonese name is bok choy or pak choi, and the Mandarin name is bai cai. The name "Pak Choi" means "white vegetable" in Chinese.
Pak Choi leaves are soft and succulent, with crunchy white or green stalks and young sweet flavoured flower shoots. The whole plant is edible. The slight mustard flavor of Pak Choi makes it a delightful addition to stir-fries, soups, noodle and meat dishes, and salads, if the young leaves are used. In China, the coarser leaves are often pickled.
Pak Choi can be divided into four categories based on appearance:
1. Chinese White Bok Choi is a tall plant (30 cm when harvested) with thick green leaves and white stalks.
2. Shanghai Bok Choi has light green leaves and light green stalks and the plant is harvested when about 15 cm high.
3. Soup Spoon type has cupped ladle-like leaves with white stalks and can grow up to 45 cm in height.
4. Canton type is a short squat type with convoluted dark green leaves and white stalks. Sometimes this type is harvested early as Baby Bok Choi.
This is one of the most popular Chinese vegetable worldwide and can be found in most large UK Supermarkets. However, in the UK baby white Pak Choi and green Pak Choi are the most popular varieties. An example of a less common variety is the Purple Pak Choi.
OTHER PAK CHOI NAMES
Chinese Cabbage, Bok Choy, Bai Cai (Bai Tsai), Cai Trang, Pe Tsai and Pechey.
HOW TO COOK PAK CHOI
Asian cooks use the entire plant at many stages of development. When cooking Pak Choi, it's best to steam or stir-fry with other vegetables or main dish. Pak Choi should only take 2-3 minutes to cook in a steamer, and to stir-fry in a frying pan or wok, cook over a high heat with 1 tbsp of vegetable or nut oil for 2 minutes - make sure you keep stiring!
Pak Choi can also be dried by dipping the leaves in boiling water and hanging them out to dry in the sun for several days. This method drying enables this highly perishable vegetable to be stored for winter months.
Don't limit your Pak Choi recipes to Oriental dishes, its super mild taste would be suited to all culinary appetites!
Popular Pak Choi dishes: Sweet soy fried noodles (pad sieu), Pak Choi Soup and Chicken Dumplings, Soup noodles with vegetables, Pak Choi Salad, Char Siu Pork on Steamed Pak Choy, Sichuan Pepper Pork with Pak Choi, Stir Fry Rice with Pak Choi and Pak choi stir-fry.