It was a tasty but mushy stir-fry on a recent dark and stormy night that became the proverbial straw. I had forgotten most everything I once knew about stir-frying. Fortunately an email invitation had recently arrived from friend and fellow cooking teacher Linda Huang of The Hummingbird’s Kitchen to join her for an Asian vegetarian lunch-time cooking class. So glad I did. Fun. Informative. Delicious. Linda taught us spring rolls, a kombu tofu salad, braised tofu with black bean sauce and this recipe for stir-fried baby bok choy with mushrooms. My stir-frying’s back on track.
What most of us have been calling “bok choy,” Linda calls “bai cai.” Pronounced “ba chai.”
I love this smaller and more tender bai cai. It very quickly cooks up moist yet crisp. This lighter green bai cai can also be called Shanghai bok choy. And, as it’s usually harvested when about six inches tall, it’s also called baby bok choy. It’s definitely worth looking for. Use instead of the more easily found white stemmed and dark green leafed bok choy.
(Rather than totally confuse you any more, I’ll resume writing bok choy—even though I’m having fun saying “ba chai.” 🙂
Stir-frying tips from Linda
• Hot wok. Cold oil. This way the aromatics, i.e., ginger and garlic, don’t burn on contact with the oil. Instead they flavor the oil as they cook. They then flavor everything cooked in the oil with them.
• Make sure your vegetables are dry. Water clinging to the vegetables can result in soft rather than crisp vegetables.
• Remove food from the wok as soon as it’s cooked. It will overcook if left sitting in the hot wok.
• Serve food warm or at room temperature.
You’ve probably heard that once garlic begins to sprout, it becomes too bitter to use. However, I recently read that once garlic sprouts, it becomes even more of a nutritional powerhouse. In this dish and others in which I’ve used sprouted garlic, not a trace of bitterness to be tasted.
Quite the title for this article:
“Garlic Sprouting Is Associated with Increased Antioxidant Activity and Concomitant Changes in the Metabolite Profile.”
Shiitake—my favorite mushrooms
Cultivated as medicinal mushrooms for centuries, shiitake have also played an important culinary role in both Japanese and Chinese cuisines. Fresh shiitake mushrooms with their silky texture and rich, buttery flavor provide umami (“delicious taste”) to soups, stuffing, stir-fries, sauces and stews.
Inspired by and lightly adapted from a recipe by Linda Huang.
Moist, crisp and delicious on its own over rice. Makes a great side vegetable with other Chinese dishes. Linda served it along with Braised Tofu in Black Bean Sauce.
Makes 4 servings
Start to Finish 15 minutes
1. Wash and dry the bok choy.
2. Separate the leaves from the stalks. Cut the stalks in half lengthwise, then into 1-inch wide pieces.
3. Cut the leaves in half lengthwise, then into 1-inch wide strips.
4. Gently wipe the top of each shiitake with a damp paper towel. Use a sharp knife to remove the tough stems from just below the cap. Leave small shiitake whole. Slice larger ones in half.
5. Heat the wok over medium high heat.
6. When the wok is hot, add the oil.
7. Add the sliced ginger and garlic. Stir-fry about 30 seconds until fragrant.
8. Add the bok choy stems. Sprinkle with a large pinch of salt. Stir-fry for 1 minute.
9. Stir in the shiitake.
10. Stir in the bok choy leaves. Sprinkle with another large pinch of salt. Stir-fry on high heat for about 1 minute more until the leaves and shiitake are just tender.
11. Remove from the wok. Serve warm on a bed of rice or as one of a number of dishes in a Chinese meal.