The weather in South Florida this time of year is perfect for growing bok choy, a winter hardy, mildly flavored, type of Chinese cabbage. As a member of the cabbage family, bok choy has the great nutritional properties of cruciferous vegetables.
Bok choy is delicious raw, and it also is often cooked in dishes like stir-fry, which is what we chose to do here. Because of its mild flavor, pairing it with stronger flavors like black bean and garlic sauce works great, and this is an easy and versatile recipe.
We grow a few different types and sizes of bok choy, all of which will work in this recipe. You can replace the bok choy with other cooking greens like kina savoy or Italian kale, or veggies such as squash, broccoli, celery, or carrots. Just remember to slice them thinly.
Note: Stir-frying is a high heat, short cooking time technique that does not “cook” the veggies per se but quickly heats them up. The quick heat also brightens the colors of the veggies, especially green ones. Your stir-fried veggies should be hot, colorful and still crisp. Stir-fried dishes where the green veggies such as broccoli are more olive green in color means the veggies are overcooked. Also, when stir-frying meat you want to slice the meat very thinly, again because of the high heat and short cooking time.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes (wash and cut the bok choy)
Cooking Time: 5-10 minutes
Serves: 6 as a side dish (when using a large bok choy like in the photo below)
- One large, mature bok choy, washed well (they can be sandy), sliced into 1/2 inch wide pieces (white stem) and 1-2 inch wide pieces (greens)
- 2 tbsp peanut oil or safflower oil
- 2 tbsp black bean and garlic sauce; a little goes a long way but you can always add more
- Dried chilis or red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
- Wash the bok choy very thoroughly, especially in the lower stem part as it can be sandy.
- Slice the root stem off and begin slicing the leaves; the white stem in 1/2 inch wide pieces, and the greens in 1-2 inch wide pieces.
- Not necessary but we give the cut bok choy another good rinse and ride in the salad spinner. This removes any sand or dirt that we may have missed the first time AND it removes any excess water so that we don’t get a lot of splatter when the bok choy pieces hit the hot oil in the wok.
- Place a large wok or large frying pan on a burner set to high, wait a minute for the pan to heat up then add the oil, wait a few seconds for the oil to heat up to almost smoking then quickly add the bok choy pieces.
Safety Tip!: The secret to a great stir-fry is high heat, very high heat, but if you’re not familiar with cooking in a wok on high heat and wait too long to put the oil in, your wok will almost immediately start smoking. Do the following until you are more comfortable with working with high heat cooking…
- Place the wok on a burner set to medium-high, wait a minute or two for the pan to heat up then add the oil, wait a few seconds more for the oil to warm up then crank the burner to high.
- Quickly add the bok choy and begin stirring frequently for approximately 5 minutes; you want to “turn over” all the contents of the wok to ensure that all the bok choy is coated with the oil and makes contact with the bottom of the hot wok or pan.
- Add the black bean and garlic sauce, continue to stir another 2 to 3 minutes to fully spread out and incorporate the sauce, which is really more of a paste.