How to Cut Bok Choy: What Part of Bok Choy Do You Eat?
In my previous posts, I’ve mentioned how I like experimenting with Asian kitchen and that I’ve spent two beautiful months in Uzbekistan, it's my story on testing five different stainless steel rice cookers.
One of the things on my bucket list is traveling to China and exploring their culture. By now, I haven’t had a chance to fulfill that wish. However, I am “training” for my future China experience, here in America.
I can hear you asking, how? What does she mean - training? Well, my dears, I’ve been trying to cook as much Chinese dishes as my hubby would let me. He is not a huge fan of Chinese cuisine, but he is a fan of my cooking, so I guess one thing compensates for another.
My dream is to stand side by side with some of their finest national chefs and say I can prepare at least some of their traditional meals, as good as they can. Of course, I can't perfect my spicing or cutting techniques as good, but I can always try to do my best.
One of the vegetables from Chinese national cuisine that I started using regularly is bok choy. I am delighted by this grocery, and I am determined to help you learn how to cut it, for starters.
So, let's roll up our sleeves and start the magic!
Bok Choy – The King of Cabbages
Bok Choy, Pak Choi, Brassica campestris or "Chinese cabbage" is a vegetable of Chinese cultivar group. It has smooth, dark green leafs, shaped like blades, which form one cluster. By their looks, bok choy leaves remind of celery or mustard greens.
The name originates from Cantonese dialect and literally, means – white vegetable. Today, this plant is grown across Europe and America, too. It is available year-round, so you can get it whenever you want, which means pretty often, in my case.
The whole plant is edible, and it tastes cabbage-like with sweet undertones. There are various ways of preparing this vegetable. You can cook its stalks and leaves, add them to soup, steam them, stir-fry, or eat them raw in salads.
The main reason why I like bok choy so much is not the taste, but the health benefits it offers. It is rich with vitamins A, C and K. Also it is a major source of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese and potassium. As you can see, it is practically a health bomb! It empowers your immune system, takes care of nerve and muscle function and improves your metabolism.
These huge health potentials of bok choy made it one of the many plants used in Chinese medicine. The antioxidants it contains had been related to cancer prevention. It also lowers your risk of unwanted chronic inflammation.
Preparing & How to Cut Bok Choy Step-by-Step
Mine so far gathered experience with bok choy made the preparing process seem so easy. It's as I had forgotten how sloppy and clumsy I was when I made it for the first few times. Now I have developed a routine for easier and more efficient cutting.
I have shown this method to many of my friends, and they spontaneously adopted it and said it helped them. That's why I hope this six-step approach will be valuable for you too.
Before we start, let's make a list of the things you'll need:
- Large kitchen bowl
- Cutting board
- A sharp ceramic knife
Before you take a knife in your hands, you should know something.
Curl up the fingers of the hand which holds the bok choy, towards your palm and away from the knife. Keep that hand at a safe distance from the knife, and move it away from the blade as you slice further along the vegetable. Start with the slow slicing pace, until you get more experienced. This way you'll avoid cutting yourself – safety should always come in a first place.
I've cut myself a dozen times, and I learned this lesson hard way, so please do take these precautions first.
1. Selecting the fresh bok choy brunches
- The trick is to look for the heads with bright green leaves and for the white stalks that look crispy. Pay attention to holes and discoloration; these are the clear sign of staleness.
- If you are planning on cooking soup or making a salad, look for larger leaves. On the other hand, stir-fries will work better if you choose smaller, narrow heads. This will help you speed up your cooking and avoid overcooking.
2. Trimming and discarding
- When you've selected the bok choy that suits your needs, it's time to start cutting. Look at the bottom of the plant. Bok choy, like any other sort of cabbage, has a thick base. You wouldn't want to eat that. Use a sharp knife for this step (you can also use a steak knife or a carving knife); it’s important as dull ones are more likely to slip and cause injury.
- Start by slicing half to one inch (1,3 to 2,6 cm) off the bottom. Make the cut just above the line where leaves are connected to the base.
- Now you can get rid of any leaves that are discolored or unusually tough. Just pull them off and discard them.
3. Cutting the stalk in half
- Use your sharp knife to slice down the middle of the bok choy. Remember, you are making a lengthwise cut. Start at the white base and end at the leaves.
- If you are dealing with unusually large head, or you only want the bok choy sliced into smaller pieces, you can repeat this lengthwise cut on two halves you ended up with. This way you'll create four smaller quarters. You can repeat this cut as many times as you need, depending on the size of a bok choy head.
4. Washing the leaves
- If you thought all six steps were about cutting, you were wrong. Wherever you are buying your vegetables, they are dirty, and should not be eaten before washing. This step requires one big bowl of cold water and colander.
- Separate leaves and swish them around in a bowl you prepared. To remove the dirt, gently rub the leaves together. Dirt usually collects toward the base, so pay attention to that part. When you estimate you are done with washing, drain the water using a colander.
5. Slicing into the smaller pieces
- Finally, we come to the serious slicing. Cut across the stalks at a 45-degree angle. Cutting at this angle increases the surface area which allows the bok choy to cook more quickly. Start at the beginning of the base and slice up all the way to the top of the leaves.
- Chop the bok choy into approximately one inch (1,3 cm) sections. If you want smaller pieces, just make the smaller cuts, be creative and follow your needs.
6. Taste the bok choy
- Have you even cooked something if you haven't tasted it? I don't think so. Your cutting is finished. Go ahead and try the fresh bok choy, especially if it's your first time. It's delicious, and if that is not good enough for you, think about all the health benefits I've mentioned. Whether you are a true hedonist, or you live a healthy life, or you are a combination of those two, the bok choy will suit you.
What comes after the cutting?
In my manner, I like preparing it by the traditional Chinese recipe, which includes baby bok choy, and use chopsticks to eat (check out the best chopsticks here). On the other hand, if you like spicy food, my husband's favorite bok choy dish should be your choice. It is a stir-fry with garlic oil and oyster sauce.
I believe you'll find your perfect recipe and I hope the bok choy experience will interest you in joining me in my dreaming of China journey.