My gripe with a lot of the Chinese dishes I cook is that it’s hard to work vegetables into them without being a massive gwai lo and throwing in chopped up carrot, capsicum, celery or any of the other usual suspects of your local neighbourhood chawwwnoise (slap a heavy Australian accent on it). Fortunately the solution is simple.
This is so easy and tasty you’d be mad not to give it some space on the table alongside something like the Ma Po Tofu. Plus, if you’re cooking for other people, it’s bonus props to you for turning out extra dishes.
With a little bit of prep that you can sneak in while other things are simmering or still coming to the boil this will take you less than 5 minutes of on-heat cooking time (probably closer to 2 minutes), and really adds a nice fresh option for the table, especially if you’re a heavy-handed cook like me and rely a lot on big, spicy, meaty flavours like I do.
Here goes. Feel free to accuse me of not actually cooking, it’s that straightforward.
- A good bunch of Chinese leafy vegetables. Bok Choy is good, Choy Sum or Kai Lan are better. Asian grocery stores will definitely have them, and you won’t have any trouble finding them in an Australian supermarket either.
- A clove of garlic, smashed & chopped.
- About three whole spring onions – whites and light greens chopped finely, dark greens sliced into little batons.
- About a thumb-sized piece of ginger – peeled and sliced very finely. Your shreds of ginger should be like blades of grass. Definitely cleaver work.
- Sesame oil.
The prep you’ll need to do is really simple. Chop your vegetables into easily chopstickable bites. Remember they’ll shrink in the wok. With bok choy I like to just slice the bottom off the bunch about 5cm away from the leaf, or if it’s nice tiny baby bok choy, slice the whole plant in half vertically. Choy sum and Kai lan are good because you can have a combination of stalks & leaves. I normally chop those just above the major joints to remove any dirt traps and make them easy to grab with chopsticks. Remember, Chinese food = social food. Stick your chopped vegetables in a sink full of cold water, give them a shake, then leave them to drain in a colander. If you give them a shake every little while as well, more power to you.
You can mix up the spring onion whites & light greens, the garlic and the ginger. As long as they’re not visibly chunky, you can’t go wrong.
Heat up some sesame oil in the wok on a high heat, and throw your little chopped stuff in. Once it’s softened a bit and isn’t smelling so oniony anymore, your leaves can go in. Dump them in the wok, and start turning them. The gingery goodness won’t stick to them immediately, but it won’t take long. You want the leaves to wilt, the stems to soften, but you want to fall short of limp & soggy. Ooh er missis.
The only problem you might encounter is that the leaves will shed a lot of water. I normally push them to one side of the wok and rock it in the other direction to put the heat directly under the liquid to evaporate it and concentrate the ginger flavour. Once most of it’s gone, turn it back through the leaves, and serve it up. Bowl, rice, whatever else is on the table.