Sunday 16 May 2010

Grow Pak Choi: from garden to wok!

Since arriving in England a few months ago, there has been a noticeable downturn in the rate of my Chinese-Vegetable-Cooking Index.  Key to this is the absence of Chinese Greens at our local supermarket.

Now, I have decided to grow some 'Pak Choi', also known as 'Bok Choy' or '白菜' depending if you're English, Australian or....well...Chinese. Its one of those great vegetables that you can just bung into your noodles or stir-fry to deliver an almost guaranteed green-sweetness and tasty crunch.

Mid-April, we were at our local garden centre and I was elated to find Pak Choi seedlings.  We got ten for £1 (after a 50% discount); turns out the poor little seedlings had been nibbled at by hungry mice....

All the seedlings were planted directly into the ground outdoors and despite a brief frost, they just grew and grew!! Four weeks later, they were ready to be harvested. And to do this, I used a cut-and-come-again approach, where you simply snip off the outer leaves, and then leave the plant to continue growing and reproduce new leaves.

Cooking them is a breeze:

Into a wok heated at medium-high, add sunflower oil, 1-2 cloves of finely sliced garlic and a pinch of salt.  Let it sizzle (but not burn) and then in with the Pak Choi. Turn off the heat when the veg is just wilted. Note: You want them to have a slight crunch to them.

Be kind. Do not cook them to death.

This was a wonderful vegetable to grow and the only pests that I encountered were slugs and snails.

A note: The actual pronunciation of 'Pak Choi' (白菜) in Cantonese is 'Baak Choi' (drag out the 'Baa' sound). It literally translates to 'White Vegetable' and the reason for this is that in many parts of Asia, Pak Choi typically has white stems and dark green leaves.

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