Meatless Monday: The Cinchiest Stir Fried Greens Ever

Got five minutes, soy sauce and a coupla garlic cloves? Then you’ve got no more excuses about how hard it is to put a leafy green vegetable on the table.

(Kim O'Donnel)

For a moment, let’s leave our friend spinach in the crisper and turn our attention to bok choy and its many Chinese cousins, all members of the Brassica family (whose western brethren includes broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts et al). Unlike tender-leaved spinach, chard and arugula, the choys need a wee bit of cooking time to both soften up and mellow out (they tend to be bitter in their uncooked state).

When I say a wee bit of cooking time, I’m not kidding -- five minutes is all you need to fix a plate of gorgeous emerald greens, dressed up with a super-simple yet lusty lacquer of soy sauce and garlic.

Choy sum is the ideal green for this particular preparation, but it’s not the end of the world if you can’t find it at your supermarket (although be sure to check Asian groceries and at farmer’s markets during growing season); a great substitute in both look and feel is the Italian bitter green called broccoli raab, also known as rapini. Still looking? Try the smaller, “baby” bok choy that is showing up in most supermarkets, and if you’re still coming up dry, a head of romaine lettuce will do the trick (tips below).

The lesson here is that you can get a green veg on the table in five minutes – without boiling a vacuum seal bag or cracking open a can. It’s fast, fresh, and I reckon, better than Chinese takeout.

Asian Greens With Garlic Sauce
Adapted from the February issue of Saveur

1 bunch choy sum (aka Chinese flowering cabbage; alternatively, whole baby bok choy or rapini), ends trimmed, as necessary
1 tablespoon peanut oil (safflower oil is also good)
2 tablespoons garlic, roughly chopped (3-4 cloves)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon water

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Drop greens in water and blanch until just tender, about 1 minute. Drain greens and set aside on a serving plate or in a bowl.

Heat skillet or wok over medium-high heat and add oil. Add garlic and cook until lightly browned, 1-2 minutes. Add soy sauce and water; cook for 1 minute. Pour sauce over greens. KOD: A drizzle of sesame oil, just before serving, is lovely.

Makes four side-dish servings.

Plan B: Substitute romaine lettuce, cut into fourths, or tatsoi, left whole: Eliminate blanching step, and proceed to sauce, which is poured over raw greens.

By Kim ODonnel |  April 6, 2009; 7:50 AM ET Meatless Monday
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Hello Kim

My lazy version is a pound of baby bok choy (grown locally!) steamed for a couple of minutes then tossed with a teaspoon of Kikkoman roasted garlic teriyaki sauce and a few drops of sesame oil. I easily eat the whole amount myself in one swell foop.

Posted by: davidlewiston | April 6, 2009 2:22 PM

That's a great start with these greens. Have you tried other condiments and sauces? I found a place that has some interest condiments that you can make. Take a look at since I know you will enjoy this.

Posted by: todo180 | April 6, 2009 11:32 PM

I do this type of thing all the time, but then I grew up in a Chinese American household and this is just standard. The main difference is that I steam the greens. Put the greens in a microwaveable container with about 1/2 cup of water. Put in the microwave for about 2 minutes (anywhere from 1-3 minutes depending on the microwave) until the leaves turn bright green. Pour out the water and put cool tap water over to stop the cooking so the greens don't wilt too much. Then dress. I find that this is faster and more energy economical than running the stove enough to boil water for blanching. This also works for broccoli and any greens.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | April 7, 2009 12:26 AM

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