How to Cook Pak Choi: Your Ultimate Guide to this Asian Green Gem

pak choi

Looking for a fresh, versatile, and nutrient-dense vegetable to liven up your meals? Look no further than pak choi, an Asian green that has been gaining popularity in the UK for its refreshing crunch and health benefits. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll unravel everything you need to know about pak choi, from what it is, where to find it, its nutritional value, its taste, and of course, how to cook pak choi in your own kitchen.

What is Pak Choi?

Pak choi, also known as bok choy, Chinese cabbage, or pok choi, is a type of Chinese cabbage that doesn’t look like your usual cabbage at all. Instead of forming a round or elongated head, pak choi has long, broad, dark-green leaves that cluster together from a base, much like celery or mustard greens. The lower stalks are white and crunchy, while the leafy upper part is soft and has a slightly sweet flavour.

A member of the Brassica family, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, pak choi is a common feature in East Asian cuisines and is gaining more and more popularity in Western cooking thanks to its crisp texture and versatility in different culinary applications.

How to Find and Buy the Best Pak Choi

Pak choi is readily available in most supermarkets in the UK, especially those with a good selection of fresh produce. You’re also likely to find it in Asian grocery stores, where it’s a staple ingredient. When choosing pak choi, look for bright green leaves and firm white stalks. Avoid any signs of wilting, yellowing, or spots as these are signs of age or poor handling.

Nutritional Value of Pak Choi

Pak choi is a nutritional powerhouse, packed with vitamins and minerals, while being low in calories. It’s an excellent source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Vitamin K. Additionally, pak choi provides a good amount of calcium, potassium, and folate. Its high water content also contributes to its low calorie count, making it an ideal choice for those mindful of their calorie intake.

What Does Pak Choi Taste Like?

Pak choi has a fresh, crisp flavour with a hint of mustard. The white stalks have a mild, slightly sweet flavour and a satisfying crunch, similar to celery or iceberg lettuce. The dark green leaves, on the other hand, have a slightly bitter taste, similar to mustard greens or spinach.

How to Cook Pak Choi

One of the great things about pak choi is its versatility. It can be enjoyed raw in salads, quickly cooked in stir-fries, or slowly braised in a rich sauce. Pak choi can be prepared using a variety of cooking methods. Whether you prefer it crisp and fresh or tender and deeply flavoured, here are some methods to consider:

Sautéing Pak Choi

Sautéing is a quick and straightforward method that brings out the fresh taste of pak choi.

  • Clean the pak choi thoroughly and pat dry. Cut it in half or quarters lengthwise, keeping the base intact so the leaves stay together.
  • Heat a tablespoon or two of olive or sesame oil in a large pan over medium heat.
  • Place the pak choi cut side down in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until the bottom starts to brown slightly.
  • Flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Season with salt, pepper, or a dash of soy sauce and serve.

Steaming Pak Choi

Steaming pak choi is another healthy and quick way to prepare this vegetable, preserving its crunchiness and bright green colour.

  • Clean the pak choi and cut it into halves or quarters if large.
  • Fill a pot with a few inches of water and bring it to a boil. Place a steamer basket in the pot, ensuring the water does not touch the bottom of the basket.
  • Place the pak choi in the basket, cover, and steam for about 5-7 minutes, until the leaves are wilted and the stalks are tender but still crisp.
  • Season as desired and serve.

Braising Pak Choi

For a softer, more flavour-infused pak choi, try braising.

  • Prepare and clean the pak choi as mentioned above.
  • Heat some oil in a large, deep pan or pot and add some chopped onions or garlic if desired.
  • Add the pak choi and cook for a few minutes until it starts to wilt.
    Add a liquid of your choice (such as vegetable broth, soy sauce, or a mix of both) until it comes about halfway up the pak choi.
  • Cover the pan and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until the pak choi is tender and has absorbed some of the flavours of the braising liquid.
  • Season as desired and serve.

Grilling Pak Choi

Grilled pak choi is a unique and flavourful option when it comes to how to cook pak choi, especially during the summer months.

  • Clean the pak choi and cut it in half lengthwise.
  • Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  • Brush the pak choi with a little oil and place it cut side down on the grill.
  • Grill for about 2-3 minutes per side, until it’s slightly charred and tender.
  • Season with your choice of spices or sauces and serve.

Each of these methods offers a different way to enjoy pak choi, allowing its flavours to shine while adding a unique twist. Whether you like it best lightly sautéed, steamed, braised, or grilled, pak choi is a versatile ingredient that’s sure to please in any dish.

Cook Pak Choi

How to Cook Pak Choi FAQs

Pak choi has a fresh, slightly sweet flavour with a hint of mustard. The white stalks are crisp and juicy, while the leafy parts are tender and slightly bitter, similar to spinach or mustard greens.

Yes, you can eat pak choi raw. Its crisp texture and mild flavour make it a great addition to salads and slaws.

Pak choi is low in calories and rich in vitamins A, C, and K. It also provides a good amount of calcium, potassium, and folate, making it a nutritious choice.

Store pak choi in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, ideally in a plastic bag with a few holes to allow for air circulation. It should last for about a week.

There’s no difference – pak choi and bok choy are two different names for the same vegetable. The names come from different Chinese dialects.

Yes, pak choi is a versatile vegetable that can be used as a substitute for other leafy greens like spinach, swiss chard, or napa cabbage in many recipes.

Yes, pak choi is a plant-based food and is suitable for a vegan diet. It can be prepared in many creative, vegan-friendly ways.

Pak choi is available in most large supermarkets, Asian grocery stores, and online gourmet food shops in the UK.

Yes, the entire pak choi plant is edible. The white stalks have a satisfying crunch, while the dark green leaves are tender and slightly bitter.