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Asian Fusion - growing Pak Choi and using it in the kitchen

Written by Carolyn on August 2nd, 2013.      1 comments

 

This week I thought I would share my enthusiasm for a plant which we have grown for the first time last year.  It is probably very familiar to many of you, but our family has just discovered it! 


 

....Pak Choi




This cute little plant has been one of our favourite discoveries over the last twelve months.  We have been growing it in our garden throughout the year and have been really enjoying adding it to our stir fries.  With this blog post in mind, I went zooming out to the garden this morning with my camera in hand, only to find we had gobbled up most of the pak choi already, so we will definitely be sowing some more soon!

Pak Choi is Chinese Cabbage.  Its botanical name is Brassica chinensis.  The word chinensis simple means "from China".  Prior to the Ming Dynasty, (which ended in 1644), Pak Choi was largely confined to Yangtse River Delta region of China, but in the following centuries it was exported to areas throughout South East Asia.  Because it is winter hardy, it is now also a popular northern hemisphere crop.  Pak Choi can also be referred to as bok choy and spelling variations are very common.



 
 


Pak Choi is easy to grow.   In temperate areas of New Zealand, good months to sow Pak Choi are March, April and May, as Pak Choi is a good cool weather crop.  You can sow Pak Choi year round in New Zealand, but because it is a brassica, it is best to avoid trying to grow it during the times when the white cabbage butterfly caterpillars are wreaking havoc in your garden beds.  Pak Choi can bolt to seed in hot weather, so growing in the heat of summer is also best avoided.


 
 



Sow your Pak Choi seeds in seed trays for transplanting, or directly where they are to grow, and space the plants 30-40 cm apart.  Protect the seedlings from slugs and snails.    Grow in full sun and provide plenty of water. 

Pak Choi plants can be harvested as salad plants after about 30 days.  After 45 days, the plants will have developed a heart and from then on can be harvested for adding to stirfries.   You can treat Pak Choi as a "cut and come again " crop or use the whole plant in one go, whichever you prefer. 

There is a choice of which types of Pak Choi to grow.  My favourites so far have been Pak Choi Mei Quing Choi and Pak Choi Red Choi, but there are plenty of other types to try.  If you would like a mini variety, try Pak Choi BonsaiPak Choi Choko is a variety which can tolerate the warmer weather and is a good choice for growing in summer,  and Pak Choi Joi Choi is a pretty dark green variety which is cold tolerant.  If you particularly want an open pollinated variety rather than a hybrid, choose Pak Choi White Stem.

Nutritionally, Pak Choi is a good source of both Vitamin A and Vitamin C.  Just 100g of Pak Choi will give you half your daily requirement of Vitamin C and 84% of your daily requirement of Vitamin A. 

 
I
n the kitchen, Pak Choi makes a fantastic addition to stir fries. 

The stems remain crisp and juicy when cooked and the leaves wilt a little and are like cabbage or silver beet. 

Quick cooking methods are best - steaming or frying works well for pak choi - add the pak choi towards the end of cooking to retain the crispness of the stems.  






One of our growers suggested the following recipe for Pak Choi Joi Choi:

 

 

Pak choi with Roast Pork


Pick tender heads of Pak Choi Joi Choi, and blanche them in some stock.  Add to a dish of steamed rice with roast pork to which some soy sauce, some Chin kiang black rice vinegar and a little sugar has been added.




Pak choi is also one of the ingredients in kimchi, Korea's traditional fermented condiment, which is growing in popularity here.  We often have customers call into Kings Seeds to gather together the seeds they will need to grow in order to be able to make kimchi later in the season.

If you would like to make (and grow) your own kimchi, some good seed choices are Chinese Cabbage (One Kilo Slowbolt is a good Kings Seeds variety to choose), Daikon Radish and Carrots.  And of course you can also grow Pak Choi.

I found a good recipe and picture-tutorial on a blog post called "Kimchi: The Prettiest Ferment", which included baby Pak Choi as one of the ingredients.  Kimchi is definitely on my list of things to try making. 

 
 

We have another variety of Pak Choi here at Kings Seeds called Pak Choi Flowering.  This is a different type of Pak Choi - for this variety the flowering stalks of the plant are gathered and eaten.  Again, they are delicious stirfried or steamed .  Pak Choi Flowering is also known as Choy Sum.   We were also given this simple but lovely way to eat freshly harvested Pak Choi Flowering by our grower: 
 
 

To prepare Pak Choi Flowering:

Stir fry some garlic chunks with NZ rock salt and oil, then add the washed and trimmed stems of Pak Choi Flowering and stir on a high heat.  Add water and shao shing or other Shanghai wine and cover with a lid to steam off.  Eat straight away.



Here is a great recipe we found for Pak choi Slaw - this recipe will be a great one to try when you also have celery, spring onions, red cabbage and coriander available for harvesting.

 
 

Pak Choi Slaw
 

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 C baby pak choi, thinly sliced
  • 1½ C red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced
  • ½ C celery, diced
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ C fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • One ½-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 t rice vinegar
  • 2 T lime juice
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 t olive oil
  • 1 t soy sauce

 

Method:

Combine pak choi, cabbage, mango, celery, spring onions, coriander and ginger in a large bowl.
In another bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, lime juice, sugar, olive oil and soy sauce.
Toss the dressing with the pak choi mixture.


 

So... in your garden at home....

It's still a great time of year to get some little pak choi seedlings going - if you haven't tried growing pak choi - how about giving it a go.  If you are a pak choi expert, you could share your favourite recipe via the comments option on this blog....we love to hear from you. 

We hope your Spring sowing is progressing well.  It's certainly getting very busy here at Kings Seeds!
 
 
 

1 Comments

kireen says ...
Hello, I've never commented before, but i'd just like to say i really enjoy your posts!