Actually ‘don’t like” is probably much too mild when describing my longstanding aversion to this ubiquitous Asian green.
Why? Firstly; it has no flavour (my opinion only–you may well detect some!) Secondly; the bit at the bottom, you know – the stem – feels wrong somehow & regardless of how you cook it ends up tough.
Having grown up in Malaysia I simply love asian food and cook it regularly. So what do I do when I refuse to resort to Bok Choy?
Ladies and gentlemen it’s with great pleasure that I introduce to you my favourite Asian leafy green. Choy Sum – ta daaaaa
Choy Sum is really delicious stuff. It has a mild, slightly bitter flavour that is great lightly stir-fried (with or without other vegetables) and flavoured with a little soya sauce and garlic; a dash of oyster sauce or; a glug of thick Indonesian Ketjap Manis, chilli and garlic. (Ketchup meaning Sauce and Manis sweet in Indonesian and Malay). The last flavouring is far and away my personal favourite. Not only is it scrummy it’s packed full with Vitamin C, the anti-oxidant beta carotene which converts to Vitamin A, fibre, many B vitamins, calcium, and iron.
Choy Sum is translated as “vegetable heart” and refers to the edible stem or stalk – you can in fact eat the lot, leaves, stems and the tiny yellow flowers. I try to find bunches with flowers as they are visually appealing and add a little “lift” to what could be a boring looking plate of greens.
Although it looks similar with its large flat leaves and tiny flower buds please don’t confuse it with Chinese broccoli – it tastes completely different. When selecting your Choy Sum make sure the leaves are bright green, bruise-free and crisp with no yellow spots. The tiny flower buds should be tight and compact. (You can always refresh slightly limp leaves by popping them into a bowl of cold water and lobbing in a couple of handfuls of ice cubes until the leaves perk up a little but make sure you dry them well before frying).
Here’s how I cook mine.
- 1 or 2 bunches of Choy Sum
- 2 cloves of garlic – sliced *optional
- 1 red chilli – sliced with or without seeds * optional
- Glug of either Ketjap Manis, Soya Sauce or Oyster Sauce 2 tablespoons of peanut or your choice of oil.
- Wash the Choy Sum a number of times to make sure you have got rid of any lurking sand or soil.
- Trim about an inch off the end of the stalks.
- Cut the individual leaves from the stalk and then into 2 or 3 pieces, about 2 to 3 inches in length keeping the different sections separate.
- Cut the top part of the remaining stalk with flowers into bite size pieces as well.
- Heat the wok and then add the oil
- Stir-fry the Choy Sum in the following order – 1. Thicker stems (for a minute) br> 2. Medium stems along with the garlic slices for another 40 seconds or so br> Lastly add the leaves, sliced chilli( if using) and your sauce of choice and toss together until the leaves are wilted and well coated with sauce.
Serve up immediately
I actually get cravings for this dish – especially when I know I haven’t really been eating properly and need a boost. So next time you’re enjoying a plate of Nasi Goreng or any other asian offering take 5 minutes to knock up some Choy Sum as a tasty, healthful side.
So get down to your local farmers market and look for Choy Sum and Give it a go… you’ll be glad you did.