Why It Works
- Blanching greens preserves color, softens tough stems, and expedites the stir-frying process.
- Minced, lightly cooked garlic adds pungent heat to the dish.
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.
Stir-frying in a light sauce flavored with a little soy sauce and a lot of garlic is my go-to method for cooking Asian greens. Quick, simple, and flavorful, it's really hard to go wrong, no matter which greens you decide to cook.
Aside from choy sum, the list of other Chinese greens that would work well in this recipe is long. Popular greens such as Chinese broccoli, bok choy, and watercress work well, but even Western vegetables like kale, collards, swiss chard, frisée, or even romaine or iceberg lettuce are good, as well.
Leafy vegetables such kale and frisée can go straight into the wok, but heartier stem vegetables like bok choy and watercress, and crisp vegetables like iceberg and romaine fare better with a quick par-boil to tenderize them and get them ready for rapid stir-frying. Similarly, you'll want to chop longer vegetables like Chinese broccoli down to size.
Here's how you do it, step by step.
Step 1: Blanch
If you have hearty greens, you'll want to blanch them briefly in boiling water—just long enough to slightly tenderize them and turn them bright green. This ensures that they're tender after a brief stir-fry, and also helps set their color by destroying the enzyme that turns them dark green.
Step 2: Stir-Fry
Get some oil smoking hot in the center of a wok, then add the vegetables. As they've already been par cooked, the stir-fry process is extremely brief; just a couple of moments.
Step 3: Push to the Sides
Once the vegetables are cooked, press them to the sides of the wok to clear a space in the middle for your sauce.
Step 4: Add Sauce
Next, add your sauce to the center of the wok. I use a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, water, and cornstarch, with some ground white pepper and minced garlic added to the mix. If you prefer the milder flavor of cooked garlic, you can add the garlic first, stir-fry for 30 seconds or so, then add the remaining sauce.
Step 5: Toss to Combine
Toss everything to combine, and you're ready to serve.
Now wasn't that easy? The whole thing happens from start to finish in just a few moments. Don't ever let me hear another excuse for not eating your veggies!
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper powder
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons water
6 cloves garlic, finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 pound choy sum, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable, canola, or peanut oil
In a small bowl combine the ground white pepper powder, soy sauce, salt, cornstarch, sesame oil, and water together. Mix well and add the minced garlic (see note). Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the chopped choy sum and cook until bright green, about 40 seconds. Drain well.
Heat vegetable oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Add the choy sum, stir, and season with a few pinches of salt. Continue to cook while stirring regularly for about 2 minutes. Push the choy sum away from the center of the wok (see note). Stir the sauce and add it to the center. Once it starts bubbling, combine it with the choy sum. Season to taste with more salt as desired. Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately.
For a milder garlic flavor, do not add garlic to sauce in step 1. During step 2, before adding sauce, add garlic to wok and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the sauce and continue as directed.
This Recipe Appears In
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 5g||7%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||4%|
|Total Carbohydrate 3g||1%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||3%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 21mg||103%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|