Chinese Mustard Greens - aka Gai Choy, Gai Choi (Brassica juncea)
Shur told me that there are over 50 varieties of Chinese mustard greens alone, with appearances and flavors that vary widely. The variety pictured below from the Minneapolis Lyndale market is called Bau Sin.
These greens reminded me of red komatsuna, a variety of Japanese mustard greens that I had received in one of my CSA boxes. Japanese and Chinese mustard greens are similar.
Mustard greens are from the brassica family and are distantly related to cabbage, kale, broccoli and brussels sprouts. Like the other greens I profiled on Monday, these greens are very nutritious, providing vitamins K, A, C, folic acid and antioxidants.
Chinese Flowering Cabbage – aka Choy Sum, Yu Choy, Chinese Spinach, Oilseed Rape (Brassica rapa)
The vendor said that typically this wouldn’t have quite so many flowers, but the hot weather that we’d experienced earlier in the week had caused the plant to bolt and send up flowers.
Typically, you cook and eat the entire plant, including leaves and stems. Shur said that opinions differ about eating the flowers: the Laos, Thai and Hmong prefer to eat the flowers, while Chinese and Vietnamese preparations often leave them out. To prep the greens, just snap off the woody part at the base of the stalk (similar to asparagus), then you’re ready to cook.
When I made the choy sum, I did this and left the rest of the stalk whole. In the end, these pieces were too big; next time, I’ll cut the stalks into pieces so they are easier to eat.
Chinese white cabbage – aka Bok Choy, baby bok choy, white cabbage, pak choy, pak choi (Brassica rapa)
The flavor of bok choy is slightly bitter. This vegetable is a natural for stir fries, braises or soups, with its crunchy stalks and tender greens. Baby bok choy is slightly sweeter and more tender than regular bok choy.
There are many ways you can stir fry bok choy but the recipe I keep going back to is one from Deborah Madison for tofu with bok choy. It’s extremely simple and quick to make, perfect comfort food for a busy weeknight.
Finally, still a mystery to me:
Are these Chinese mustard greens? Or napa cabbage?
I purchased both of these bunches at the Minneapolis market from separate stands on the same day. The vendor who sold me the one on the left said it was Chinese mustard greens, and the vendor who sold me the one on the right said that it was Napa cabbage.
Come to think of it, this looked similar to a green I received in a Harmony Valley Farm CSA box that was also identified as “napa cabbage”, though it looked to me more like romaine lettuce. The giveaway that it is not romaine lettuce is the distinctive white rib running through each leaf’s center – this marks it as from the choy family of vegetables.
Still, this doesn’t look like the napa cabbage which I’ve been familiar with buying in the store. [Sigh.] I’m still learning.
Here’s a good photo illustration of other Asian greens that I came across recently; you may find it helpful too.
Okay, the million dollar question – what to do with Asian greens? The short answer is to stir fry them, braise them or add them to soups. The good news is that many of these greens are interchangeable and simple preparations with garlic, soy sauce, ginger, oyster sauce, etc. seem to work well.
Here are some recipe ideas for Asian mustard greens, choy sum and bok choy, gleaned from the Internet and assembled into a master list from my previous IN SEASON posts about bok choy, red komatsuna and hon tsai tai.
Mustard greens with garlic, onions and sesame oil (Simply Recipes)
Sauteed komatsuna with basil (Chubby Bunny Recipes)
Tahini-soy sauce greens (Worden Farm)
Komatsuna greens in ginger almond miso sauce (Cupcake Punk)
Hon tsai tai with soy sauce and oyster sauce (Tucson CSA)
Asian greens with garlic sauce (A Mighty Appetite)
Soy glazed baby bok choy (A Veggie Venture)
Tofu with bok choy (Green Your Plate)
Sweet and spicy stir fry (A Good Appetite)
Simple almost spring vegetable stir fry (Beth Dooley for Star Tribune)
Spicy stir fry chicken and greens with peanuts (Harmony Valley Farm)
Skirt steak and bok choy stir fry (Martha Stewart)
One last thing – I’m giving a Market Talk about greens at the Minneapolis Farmers Market tomorrow morning, Saturday June 18th, at 10:30 am. I’ll be demonstrating some of the recipes mentioned during my posts this week. If you’re at the market, please stop by and say hello!
Have you cooked with any of these types of Asian greens yourself? What’s your favorite way to prepare them?