The Joy of Bok Choy
Have you ever come across a mysterious green in your Chinese stir-fry? This bright green member of the cabbage family delivers flavor, vitamins and a satisfying crunch.
Have you ever come across a mysterious green in your Chinese stir-fry? There’s a good chance it was bok choy, a mild-mannered cabbage cousin that has played a supporting role in Asian cuisine for centuries. Fortunately, bok choy has expanded beyond the takeout container in recent years—thanks, in part, to celeb chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and Rachael Ray, who have created delicious, do-able dishes featuring the underrated veggie. Search “bok choy” on foodnetwork.com and you’ll find more than 150 recipes!
POWER UP Light and sweet, bok choy is a nutritional powerhouse. A one-cup serving of cooked bok choy provides 144 percent of your daily value of vitamin A, 74 percent of vitamin C and 72 percent of vitamin K—all for a mere 20 calories. The veggie is also especially beneficial for its calcium bioavailability, which means the amount of calcium in a food that can be absorbed by the body. Bok choy is lower in oxalates—compounds that bind to calcium and decrease its absorption—than most other leafy greens. Consider: A whopping 54 percent of the calcium in bok choy can be absorbed by the body, compared with 32 percent in milk and 5 percent in spinach.
DID YOU KNOW? Bok choy is used in traditional Chinese medicine to quench thirst, relieve constipation, improve digestive health and treat diabetes. Still grown in China, it is now also harvested in Europe, Canada and the United States. There are more than 20 varieties of bok choy, but only two types are readily available in the U.S.—the standard kind described here and baby bok choy, which is smaller and more tender.
BUY/STORE/SERVE Although it’s a cabbage relative, bok choy bears little resemblance to the round, tightly packed cabbage found in Western supermarkets. With its crisp white stalks and dark green crinkly leaves, it looks more like a cross between celery and romaine lettuce. Look for firm, unblemished stems and crisp, bright green leaves. Bok choy will keep in the refrigerator—unwashed in a plastic bag—for three to five days. Just be sure to wash the greens before eating because they can be gritty. As far as preparation goes, bok choy is very versatile. Both stalks and leaves can be sliced and eaten raw in salads, shredded for a tasty take on coleslaw or whipped up in green smoothies. It also can be steamed, boiled (in soups), sautéed or stir-fried. No matter how you use it, bok choy is a flavorful, nutrient-dense addition to your dishes—and your diet. —HARRY DOWDEN