Chinese Greens 101: Spinach and Red Shen Choy in Garlicky Broth

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[Photographs: Shao Z.]

Growing up, not having a plate of Chinese greens on the table for dinner was like not having rice—it was simply unthinkable. Quick to cook, simple and delicious, Chinese greens are a great way to add a vegetable dish to your meal. In this series, we'll be talking about some of the most common types of Chinese greens, common cooking methods, and a few ways to bring some Western greens into the fold as well. Check out the entire series here!

Of all the techniques we've covered in the series so far, this one is the easiest. First you blanch your greens in boiling water. Then you sauté some garlic and add some broth, pour it over the greens, and you're done.

But it does require starting with the right greens. Most hearty greens are great stir-fried, but for more tender, leafy greens like spinach and snow pea shoots, I prefer them served in a broth.

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This simple preparation makes for a beautiful presentation, especially when using red shen choy. Also known as red spinach, yin choy, or red amaranth leaves, this spinach-like vegetable will turn your broth a lovely shade of red.

Most of the time that greens are prepared this way, especially in Chinese restaurants, superior stock, made with chicken and ham, is used. To keep it casual, store-bought or homemade chicken broth is a good stand-in. You can even use vegetable broth if you want to keep it completely vegetarian or vegan. Can't find the amaranth? Don't worry, other greens that would be great prepared this way include iceberg lettuce, watercress, and snow pea shoots.

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Because shen choy is a little heartier than the baby spinach I'm using here, I drop them into boiling water about a minute before adding the spinach. After that, I just wait for the spinach to wilt (roughly another minute), then drain both greens very well and transfer them to a serving bowl.

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Next, I sauté chunks of roughly chopped garlic just until they soften and begin to turn golden brown and sweet. Garlic is going to be the main flavor in this dish, so make sure that you take the time to let it brown properly!

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I add a cup and a half of chicken broth to the garlic, bring it to a simmer, and season it with salt.

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Pour the broth over the greens, and you're all set. I can't think of an easier way to put a delicious side dish on the table.

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