Simple Chinese Greens

Today is a big voting day here in the United States. If you’re one of the 12 states (or American Samoa) participating, be sure to let your voice be heard! While I’m not in a voting state today, I’m holding a mini celebration by peppering this post with election-related vocabulary. How many words can you spot?

You may have noticed a vegetable side dish peeking out from last week’s Furikake Ahi recipe. It happens to be one of my favorite ways to prepare leafy greens, and until today, the recipe could only be found in my debut cookbook, The Ancestral Table. That’s all going to change today, as we’re going to have a bit of a…well, super Tuesday today with this recipe.

There’s a lot of flexibility in this dish, but the technique remains the same: prepare a sauce, simmer the greens in the sauce, then remove the greens and thicken the sauce before reuniting them in a savory, delicately-flavored superdelegate. I can’t be upset if you elect to add a few other ingredients, as the absolute majority of the flavor comes from the primary components of broth, ginger, and garlic. Other write-in options would be tamari, chopped cashews, dried shrimp, or fried shallots.

There is a bit of confusion regarding Chinese cabbages, so I wanted to give you a better idea concerning the different candidates you could choose from. Any of them are worth your vote, but here’s a quick breakdown:

Bok choy – Both bulbous and leafy, bok choy is front-runner in terms of popularity. It can have a white or green stem. Immature cabbages are often sold as baby bok choy.

Choy sum – A slender version of bok choy with thick, cylindrical stems; it is sometimes called flowering Chinese cabbage. Similarly, Kai-lan (sometimes called Chinese broccoli) also has thick stems. It looks like choy sum, has a flavor similar to broccoli, and has small, edible flower heads. I used Kai-lan in the picture above.

Won bok – Also known as Chinese or napa cabbage, won bok is a large, dense cabbage not unlike head cabbage. It is most commonly used in Kimchi, and works well chopped up and added to stir fries and fried rice.

Simple Chinese Greens (Gluten-free, Paleo, Primal, Perfect Health Diet)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy

1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp mirin or other rice wine
1/4 tsp white pepper
salt to taste
1 tbsp arrowroot or potato starch
1 tbsp cold water
1 lb whole leafy chinese greens (choy sum, kai-lan, or bok choy)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1″ ginger, peeled and grated
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1. Combine the chicken broth, Chinese cooking wine, and white pepper, adding a liberal amount of salt to taste; set aside. Mix together the starch and cold water in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Rinse the greens in cold water, then drain. Bring a stockpot of water to a boil, dip the greens into the water using tongs, and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain and rinse the greens with cold water, then set aside.

3. Heat the oil in a wok on high heat until shimmering, about 1 minute. Add the ginger and garlic; sauté until aromatic, 15-30 seconds. Add the greens and sauce and simmer until the greens are wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove the greens with tongs and place in a serving dish, keeping the sauce in the wok. Add the starch slurry to the sauce, stirring until thickened, about 1 minute. Pour the thickened sauce over the greens and serve.

17 thoughts on “Simple Chinese Greens

  1. I have been OBSESSED with cooking Bok Choy lately so this couldn’t have come at a better time! Now I can spread my wings and try something a little different.

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  2. What I love about this recipe is that it preserves both the nutrition and color of the greens. The presentation is beautiful. (I’ve tried oven roasted bok choy recipes since they’re popular, and while tasty, I feel that roasting does a disservice to this tender vegetable.)

    So I’ve been getting something called purple pac choi from a local farmer and it’s gorgeous and delicious. I think it’s just a purple version of bok choy because its structure is certainly the same. It might even have higher nutritional value because of the purple color. I’m going to try it for this recipe.

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  3. I had some Bok Choy at a Chinese restaurant the other day and it was simply delicious, it had a kind of smoky flavor, and who knows if it was some horrible type of liquid smoke. It tasted better than a liquid smoke though. Do you know of some kind of oil that would give it a nice smokiness? I don’t think it was a sesame oil but who knows.
    I plan on trying yours as it is – just got off track thinking about the restaurant one since I ‘ve been thinking about it ever since I had it. (Who ever though vegetables had that kind of power?) I think the ginger in your recipe will add a nice brightness to the flavor.

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  4. trying this tonight. my garden if full of bok choi, chinese cabbage and komatsuna(i sometimes use this as spinach) I am in central florida, so these are all in season now. usually I just saute bok choi in oil with garlic a sprinkle of crushed red pepper and at the last minute a sprinkle of roasted sesame oil.

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  5. hahaha love the clever play on words to get everyone excited for Super Tuesday! What a beautifully simple dish. And thank you for the quick lowdown on the Chinese cabbages. I definitely needed a refresher since I don’t see all of these at the grocery often (besides bok choy!)

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  6. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I adore Chinese dishes as they are quite light and have healthy ingredients. Also, they are easy to prepare. For a long time, my boys have been asking me to make some Chinese food. I am going to try this dish and surprise them.

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