Food Guide: A Crash Course in Baby Bok Choy

Bok choy doesn’t get enough love in western culture. This post is completely dedicated to everything about baby bok choy, from purchase to plate!

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I looooove bok choy. It reminds me of when I went to China on a school field trip… I mean, it was sort of a school field trip. International travel was very much an extracurricular! But my parents insisted that I see the world outside my little New England space.

So… I ended up in China.

I thought I would never end up seeing China with my own eyes. At the time, I thought that it was just too far away and that it is a scary place, for some reason. Maybe I was just afraid of the culture difference

But kids, China was amazing.

We were on a tour that took us to the major cities. I got to walk on the Great Wall. I got to try peking duck in Beijing. We even had Pizza Hut in China! And let me tell you, it’s totally different from here. The one that I went to in Beijing was a sit-down restaurant. Seeing as how our teacher guide told us we weren’t going to have any fast food while we were there, this was an experience. I don’t think that she was expecting risotto at a Pizza Hut or bubble tea at a KFC.

But one of the most prevalent and noteworthy flavors that we had when we were in China was baby bok choy. It seemed to be with every meal was almost served as liberally as rice. I never got tired of the endless stream of baby bok choy. I always had a heaping serving everywhere I went.

But when I got back to the States, I was hard pressed to find my beloved baby bok choy again. And even when I did find it, I had no idea how to cook it.

I’m a little more seasoned in the kitchen now, and I have learned a thing or two. I’ve got to play with my favorite green a little more, and now I will pass on what I know to you!

A few nutrition facts about baby bok choy

If you are dieting, you should definitely be considering bok choy! In my research, I found that a cup of bok choy has more beta-carotene and vitamin A than any other cabbage. It also has a lot of vitamin-C, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight cancer.

Bok choy is also very good to your bones. It has been found that there is about 26% of your daily value of vitamin-K1 in a cup of bok choy, which is important for bone metabolism. The Harvard Public School of health even said that there is more calcium in bok choy than dairy products! Got bok choy? 😀

Bok choy has a host of different B vitamins, such as B1, B5, and B6. These are all important for energy, but also have been sighted to possibly slow brain shrinkage.

The best part is, all these nutrients come in a 20 calorie (or less) package per one cup of cooked bok choy!

I could cover a lot more when it comes to the nutrients in bok choy. If you want to learn more (and check out my sources) click here or here.

Shopping for baby bok choy

Baby bok choy is a small leafy green, not usually any taller than about 5 inches. I choose baby bok choy over the more grown-up bok choy because the smaller plants are more tender, less bitter, and all-around more easier to consume size-wise. Baby bok choy is usually $0.50 to $1.00 more a pound where I am located in New England, but it is definitely worth it.

Look for leaves that are strong and green, avoiding yellowing as much as you can. I know it may not be 100% possible, especially if the bok choy comes in a bag. If you feel the bulb part of the bok choy, it should be firm and not spongy or wrinkly.  By looking and feeling the bok choy, you’ll know if it’s on its way out or not.

If you experience the above warning signs, don’t buy it. It will just cause you heartache; that bok choy will be lucky to last a couple days more.

Storing your baby bok choy

To avoid the wilted leaves, I find that putting a damp paper towel under the baby bok choy really helps. This seems to help give the little babies some water to absorb while it is awaiting your consumption. If it is going to be a while before you use the bok choy, be sure to check the paper towel every now and again to make sure it is still moist.

Storing it in a crisper drawer also helps with the longevity of the vegetable. I have kept my bok choy in the crisper for a couple weeks when using both storage methods together.

If your baby bok choy begins to wilt, fear not! It is still very much edible. Sometimes you have to pull off a leaf or two, and that’s okay. The wilted leaves will cook just fine. But please, for the love of food, don’t toss the whole bag if they are limp!

Cleaning your baby bok choy

To start, grab yourself a paring knife (or a chef’s knife and cutting board, however you are comfortable) and a colander. Cut off about an eighth of an inch off the bottom of the baby bok choy to remove the stem. 

Break away the leaves and rinse them under cool water as you go; this will make your life a lot easier. When you are done rinsing them individually, throw them into the colander for further rinsing.

Feel free to break down your bok choy completely, but I like to leave the last 4-6 leaves intact. I just love the little bud in the middle!

If you do leave the middle intact, be sure to run water inside of the bud. I have crunched down on dirt and have found little gnats in the middle from not paying attention in the cleaning stage! And that almost ended up in my mouth!! I try not to think about the fact that I’ve probably eaten a few bugs from the bok choy already… *shivers*

Anyway.

When you are done giving them a quick rinse individually, Run your hands through the bok choy while the water is running, making sure to flip the bok choy around to make sure there are no more bits of debris or dirt. Something important to note is that bok choy, when cooked, is super tender. You will know if you crunch down on something.

Once your bok choy is all cleaned up, it’s time to choose your cooking method! We are going to go over two today: steaming and sautéing. 

Method 1: steaming or boiling

The best part about bok choy is that cleaning it is the most time-consuming part! Steaming bok choy is probably the healthiest, easiest, and fastest way to cook your veggie.

I realized what I was missing once I got my own bamboo steamer! Steaming was definitely how I had bok choy back in China. Every time I eat it, I am reminded of the time that I spent on the east coast of the Pacific. I just love the connection that food and dishes have with their culture.

Back to reality in the States!

If you don’t have a steamer, this is the one that I own (or almost identical to the one that I own) and have had for a few years now. It works just fine for me! Just make sure you let the bamboo dry completely before storing, or you will end up with moldy bamboo. :-/

To steam bok choy, bring a pan with about a half inch of water in to a boil. Once it has boiled, turn the pan down to medium. Make sure the steamer fits right on the lip of the pan! You don’t want the steamer to be in the water, nor do you want the edge of your steamer to be hanging off the edge. You want your steamer’s edge to be right on the edge of your pan. No excuses!

If you are unsure, measure the diameter of one of your pans and then buy a corresponding steamer. No need to play guessing games.

fill the steamer basket completely. Having a lot of leaves in one basket is fine because much like cooking spinach, bok choy will reduce significantly. Allow to cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the stalk of the leaf is tender and hot and the leaf itself is bright green and withered. We don’t want these to become a dull green; this means that they are over-cooked and they will probably be very mushy.

Don’t be afraid to check your bok choy every few minutes! Depending on the amount of bok choy you have, the time will vary. It also depends on how experienced you are with cooking bok choy and using steamers as well.

In my experience, steamers cook food quickly! Yes, you are letting out heat and steam by lifting the lid. But due to its small cooking space, I’d much rather you lose a little heat than overcook your bok choy. It’s just not worth it!

If you have a lot and have more than one basket, feel free to use a second basket. Just note that you need to switch the top and the bottom about halfway through, and that your cooking time may be higher due to the higher volume of food being cooked.

If you don’t have a steamer, then direct steaming works as well! Placing a little bit of water at the bottom of a pot, allowing it to boil, and then putting in the bok choy will basically do the same thing. Just be sure to stir it a few times during cooking, or the bottom will be mush and the top pieces will be uncooked.

Method 2: Sautéing

I don’t often sauté baby bok choy, but cooking it in a pan or a wok with a little oil and soy sauce gave it a “Chinese take-out” flavor. Since I love me some take-out, I might have to use this method more often!

For a single serving, I heated about a teaspoon of canola or any neutral oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add in about 6 oz. of baby bok choy (by weight, I couldn’t get cup measurements out of it) and a teaspoon of soy sauce.

The soy sauce may stick to the bottom of the pan, and that is okay. Pour in a little water (no more than a teaspoon at a time) to unstick some of the soy sauce.

Cook for about 5 minutes, or until leaves are shriveled up and the stalk starts browning. It will brown a bit from the soy sauce and the pan. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top and you are good to go!

Feel free to add more soy sauce as you want to taste. I found that keeping the soy sauce on the low end made it so I got the flavor without drowning out the fresh flavor of the bok choy as well.

have you ever tried bok choy before? Have any questions for me? Write them to me in the comments down below!

Cheers!

Gem

Founder and Writer for Food Drinks Life. Drop a line, say hi!

4 Comments

  1. Hey Gem, you make something so healthy sound so delicious. I have seen this dish in a restaurant but never tried it. We have a new international supermarket near us I bet I can find bok choy there. Thanks for the clear description on how to make this dish.

    1. You are most welcome! And I hope they have it too. I love to just poke around in those sort of stores to see what is regular food for that region. I hope it inspires you!

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