Red Bok Choy
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Red Bok choy has deep violet, oval-shaped leaf blades with translucent and succulent pale green stalks that join at a common, clustered base averaging 20-25 centimeters in length. The smooth, firm stems are crunchy, slightly curved, and aqueous. Connected to the stems, the crinkled leaves are crisp and pliable with prominent veins that span across the entire surface. Red Bok choy leaves are also characterized by their dark purple-red tops and dark green undersides. This coloring gives the leaves a more pronounced mustard flavor in comparison to other bok choy varieties. Red Bok choy has a crunchy, slightly fibrous consistency with a sweet, tangy, and earthy flavor.
Red Bok choy is available year-round.
Red Bok choy, botanically classified as Brassica rapa var. chinensis, is a variety of non-heading Chinese cabbage that is a member of the Brassicaceae or mustard family. Considered to be one of the rarer varieties, Red Bok choy is also known by many other names including Red choy, Red Pak choi, and Dark-Red Pac choi. Red Bok choy can be harvested at the microgreen or baby leaf stage, or it can be grown to full maturity. With the varying sizes, Red Bok choy is extremely versatile in culinary applications, depending on the stage it is harvested in, and is favored for its use in both hot and cold dishes adding fresh, umami-like flavors.
Red Bok choy is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, which can help boost the immune system and repair the skin. It also contains iron, calcium, and anthocyanins, which are the red pigments found in the leaves that act as antioxidants to provide anti-inflammatory properties to help heal the body and protect against further environmental damage.
Red Bok choy is best suited for raw and cooked applications such as steaming, boiling, blanching, braising, sautéing, and stir-frying. When raw, the leaves and stems can be finely chopped and added to salads and slaws or used as a vessel to dip into sauces and spreads. It is important to note that the deep red-purple color will fade with cooking and will transform into a dark green. Red Bok choy can also be lightly braised and served as a side dish, tossed into soups and stews, or lightly stir-fried with other vegetables and meats for a complete main course. It is highly used in Asian cuisine and is considered to be an all-purpose vegetable incorporated into many quick-cooking applications. Red Bok choy pairs well with cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, celery, mushrooms, meats such as pork, poultry, and fish, tofu, ginger, garlic, and sesame seeds. The leaves and stems will keep 3-5 days when loosely stored in a plastic bag and kept in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
In China, bok choy is traditionally dried in the sun and stored for extended use during the winter season. Each leaf is separated, blanched, and hung to dry in the sun until they obtain a delicate, brittle consistency. Dried bok choy leaves have been used for hundreds of years in China as a sustainable method to consume greens during the harsh winters and can last for over six months when stored properly. The dried leaves are predominately used in soups and reconstitute quickly once submerged in the broth. Choy Gon Tong, a well-known soup from the Canton region of China, utilizes dried bok choy along with pork bones, honey dates, and dried scallops to make a savory meal. This soup is also believed to help reduce coughs and mucus by rehydrating the airways and lungs.
Bok choy is native to China, originally from the Yangtze River Delta, where it has been cultivated for thousands of years. The exact origins of Red Bok choy are unknown, but it is believed to be a hybrid variety with minimal commercial production. Today Red Bok choy is available in limited supply at Asian markets and farming communities in Asia and Southeast Asia. It is also available in seed form through online seed catalogs for home garden use and through select specialty grocers in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia.
Recipes that include Red Bok Choy. One is easiest, three is harder.