You are probably most familiar with bok choy as that green leafy vegetable floating in Chinese soup, but once you know more about it, you’ll understand why it should have more of a starring role in your cuisine.
Bok choy is also sometimes called Chinese cabbage, but it’s more closely related to chard. Technically part of the brassica family, bok choy contains indoles, which are compounds that lower the risk of cancer. A favorite in Chinese medicine and cuisine for centuries, leafy green bok choy is rapidly becoming a staple on American tables, cultivated mostly in California. Not only is it highly versatile, but with its cancer-fighting properties and a host of other nutritional benefits, bok choy is a certified superfood and one of osteopath and alternative medicine physician, Dr. Joseph Mercola’s most recommended vegetables for a healthy diet.
Here are some highlights of bok choy’s nutritional properties:
And this is all at less than 20 calories a cup of the raw vegetable. When bok choy is cooked, you get more in a cup, so you get a higher concentration of the nutrients.
The word ‘bok choy’ is from the Chinese word for soup spoon due to the leaves’ utensil-like shape. The elongated heads make this vegetable look sort of like Romaine, but that’s where the similarity ends. The white stalks are juicy, crispy and mild, more like celery than cabbage. They are sometimes pickled. The leaves taste like a cross between cabbage and spinach, with a mild mustard-like flavor. Baby bok choy is less fibrous and more tender. Whether baby or mature, bok choy can be eaten raw in salads, grilled as a side dish, in stir fry dishes and yes, in soup.
When adding to soup, put the stalks in first and the dark green leaves in at the last minute. When sautéing or stir frying, cook quickly at a high temperature so it keeps its crispy texture and preserves the vitamins. Light steaming is the best way to cook bok choy while still preserving all the nutrients. You can also add bok choy to fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies.
Below is a recipe For Baby Bok Choy from my second cookbook, The Age Beautifully Cookbook, that is delicious and practically foolproof. The indoles (sulfur compounds) help to prevent cancer by neutralizing carcinogens. These compounds are also needed to make keratin for healthy nails, hair, and skin.
Baby Bok Choy
1 Tbs. coconut oil or sesame oil
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 Tbs. low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
6 cups baby bok choy (about 4–5 heads)
Salt or salt substitute and freshly ground black pepper to taste
You can use full-size bok choy instead of baby bok choy. Just cut them in half lengthwise or increase the cooking time.
If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, Buckwheat Crepes from my first cookbook, The Age Gracefully Cookbook, is one to try. This vegetarian main dish is full of fiber, vitamins and minerals. In this recipe, I turn buckwheat pancake mix into crepes and stuff them with healthful vegetables including two cups of bok choy as well as asparagus, carrots, leeks and immunity-boosting shiitake mushrooms.
Here’s a version of a recipe I discovered:
Stir Fried Chicken with Bok Choy
For the Sauce:
2 Tbs. honey or maple syrup
½ tsp. freshly grated ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbs. reduced sodium gluten-free soy sauce
1 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
For the Stir-Fry:
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 head of bok choy washed and cut cross-wise into 1-inch strips
2 large carrots peeled in strips (or 1/2 cup matchstick cut carrots)
5-6 green onions diced
6 brown mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 Tbs. sesame seeds
¼ cup chopped cilantro