Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chao Shanghai Cai (Stir fried Shanghai Bok Choi with garlic)

There is some confusion about what to call various greens in the Chinese repertoire. Bok choi, means white vegetable in Cantonese, and generally refers to the larger white cabbages (pekinensis cultivar group) which in the West are recognized as napa cabbage; in Beijing, the mandarin equivalent is bai cai, and when in season, you’ll see enormous piles of these big cabbages on neighborhood streets, awaiting distribution to homes and restaurants for preserving, boiling and stir frying (The Beijing authorities nearly eliminated this "unsightly" practice during the 2008 Olympics).  However, the popular name for the vegetable in this dish is Shanghai Bok Choi which is not even remotely large or entirely white.   In fact, Chinese cooks enjoy the very small leaves of this cabbage, the smaller the better.  Again, the preparation is extremely simple, featuring the superb texture and flavor of this delicious, healthy vegetable.
1 lb Shanghai bok choi, or Shanghai Choi, trimmed
3 med garlic cloves, minced
1/3 tsp kosher salt (or, if you prefer, 1 Tab light soy sauce)
2 – 3 Tab peanut oil
Sesame oil
Wash and thoroughly dry the cabbage.  Trim the base from each cabbage head so that all of the leaves separate.

Prepare other ingredients.

Heat wok to medium, add peanut oil and when it is hot, toss in garlic.  Stir fry quickly for 5 or 10 seconds, add Shanghai bok choi, stir fry for one minute or so and add salt (or soy if you prefer).  Cover, turn heat down to low medium, and allow cabbage to steam in its own juices for 2 minutes or so, or until the leaves are limp and the stalks begin to shrink and soften.  Adjust saltiness if necessary.  Plate the Shanghai choi on a platter and garnish with sesame oil.

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