Bok Choi/Pak Choi

 Traditional stir-fry vegetable from China; among hundreds of Brassica family leafy greens cultivated for centuries; dozens of types of choi has a cabbage-like flavor common to brassicas.  This vegetable is among the highest calcium content of vegetables; also an excellent source of vitamins A, B-complex, and C. 


Choi keeps well but will wilt if it dries out. Shake off any excess water, then wrap choi in a damp towel or place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Like chard, choi stems and leaves both can be used. Stems take slightly longer to cook. Cut them into ½ to1 inch chunks; leaves can be left in large pieces or chopped finely, as desired. The most common cooking method for choi is stir-frying, but it can also be braised, steamed, simmered in a soup, or baked in a quiche, among other possibilities. Choi can stand in for chard in most recipes, but keep in mind that the flavor will be very different.


Rice noodles with Choi and Shiitakes
Serves 4

This easy dish presents a wonderful combination of textures and flavors: chewy rice noodles with the crunch of choi and the silky-smoothness of shiitake mushrooms are tossed with vibrant ginger, garlic, and chiles.

8 oz. Asian rice noodles (see note 1)

3 T. soy sauce or tamari
3 T. rice wine (sake, sherry, or non-alcoholic white wine may be substituted)
2 T. rice vinegar (cider vinegar may be substituted)
1 T. toasted sesame oil
2 t. sugar
3 T. broth or water
2 t. cornstarch or arrowroot

1 T. vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 T. chopped fresh ginger
1 fresh jalapeño or other hot chile pepper, seeds removed, chopped (see note 2)
1 small bunch choi (or 3-4 bunches baby choi), cut into strips
about 20 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced (see note 3)
6-8 scallions, cut into thin strips (about 2 inches long)
2 T. toasted sesame seeds

1. Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water until chewy-tender, about 6-8 minutes. Drain and rinse immediately in lots of cold water so that noodles do not stick together. Drain again and set aside. Mix together sauce ingredients and set aside.

2. In a large skillet or wok, heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and chile, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the choi, mushrooms, and scallions, and cook 3-4 minutes more. Add noodles and sauce ingredients and cook 2-3 minutes more, mixing well, until sauce has thickened and noodles are heated through. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve immediately.

1. Don’t confuse Asian rice noodles with ‘rice flour pasta’ found in the ‘wheat-free’ aisle of the natural food store! Sometimes very fine vermicelli rice noodles are available, but the wider, fettuccini-like ones are better for this dish.
2. If you have a very low tolerance for spicy food, instead of eliminating the chile entirely, try this: cut it lengthwise and remove seeds, but do not chop; add the two chile halves to the stir fry as per the recipe, then remove the chiles before adding the noodles and sauce. You’ll get the chile flavor, without the burning heat!
3. Common button or crimini mushrooms can be used, but the flavor and texture is totally different-it’s worth splurging on the shiitakes!