Sunday, 2 May 2010

Discover: Pak Choi

Europe has a vast range of cabbages available for us to grow, but those of us who have not looked further afield are missing some great gastronomic experiences.

Pak Choi (Brassica rapa chinensis). This member of the cabbage family has a number of different names, including bok choy, horse's ear, Peking Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, Chinese Celery cabbage and white mustard cabbage. Its structure looks like a squat celery, with either white or very pale green short, chunky stalks and glossy, deep green leaves. Each plant will have 10-14 stalks 8” to 10” long. 

The texture of both leaves and stalks is crisp, and the flavour is somewhere between mild cabbage and spinach. If very young it can be eaten raw in salads, but is best when briefly cooked. It's commonly used in stir fry and spring rolls.

Another reason that Pak Choi is becoming popular to use, besides its similarity to cabbage, is because of its nutritional value. One half cup of raw Pak Choi, which is approximately 56 grams, contains only 10 calories. Additionally, Pak Choi contains no fat or cholesterol and is a good source of calcium. It is also low in sodium and high in vitamins C and A. Because both Pak Choi's stalks and leaves can be used in salads, it also provides a delicious and healthy meal for those who are on a diet. Pak Choi is also easy to prepare. You need only wash the Pak Choi, chop it, then use it as you desire; for example, you can microwave or steam it for a simple and quick side dish or main meal.

Pak Choi is a vegetable that will continue to be used in many international kitchens because it is a tasty alternative to cabbage as well as a healthy dietary addition. Being in season from October to March makes it a common autumn and winter veg box ingredient.

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