At Din Tai Fung, the side vegetables deserve as much popularity as the xiao long bao. They complete every table as a healthy foil to full-flavored ulam. And the greens are so tasty on their own, you can turn them into a meal as well. Just pile them over fried rice and you're set.
This recipe replicates Din Tai Fung's stir-fried bok choy for your dinner table. A quick blanch gives the vegetables their vivid color and crisp-tender bite. Fragrant garlic oil wakes up the bok choy's natural flavors.
Bok choy looks like pechay. Are they the same thing?
Yes, they look alike. Bok choy and pechay come from the same cabbage family, so you can think of them as siblings. They both have a bulbous end, which extends to sturdy, celery-like stems ending with dark round leaves.
What sets them apart? First, their appearance: Bok choy has thick green stems, while pechay has slender white stems. Pechay tends to have darker, rounder leaves as well.
Then there’s flavor: Pechay tastes more bitter than bok choy, but only slightly! You can substitute one for the other with little to no consequence.
Blanching greens breaks their rawness
To make DTF-style bok choy at home, start by quickly blanching your greens in boiling water. This is to “break the rawness” (duan sheng or 断生 in Chinese) of your bok choy before stir-frying, cooking them just enough to soften the tough stems while preserving some crunch.
Pale garlic = no bitter flavor
While making the garlic oil, you’ll be tempted to cook your minced garlic into crispy golden chips. Don’t. This is not garlic rice!
The goal here is pale garlic that’s shy of golden. When you keep the garlic on the raw side, the flavors end up mellow and sweet. Cook it any longer or hotter and the garlic starts darkening in color, developing more bitter flavors with it. (And garlic can darken fast.) So cook your garlic low and slow, keeping it constantly moving in the pan to prevent burning.
Season with salt at the end
Season your bok choy with salt right before serving, not while your greens are cooking. Salting earlier will draw out precious moisture from the bok choy and dry it out.
Can I use other vegetables?
Don’t have bok choy? Neither does Din Tai Fung in Japan. Instead, they use sweet potato leaves (AKA talbos ng kamote). DTF Thailand and Singapore have stir-fried dou miao, or pea shoots.
This recipe works with the greens you have. If using long, stalky greens, make sure to trim them into short, bite-sized lengths.
Some vegetables you’ll want to try:
- Chinese broccoli or kailan
- Chinese spinach or polonchay
And don’t forget bok choy’s sister, pechay!
- 4 bunches baby bok choy
- 3 tbsp neutral oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
Prep bok choy: Using a sharp knife, chop off the butt ends of your bok choy to separate them into individual leaves.
Blanch bok choy: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, blanch bok choy until bright green, about 30 seconds. This step softens the bok choy’s thick stems until crisp-tender. Transfer blanched bok choy to an ice bath and let sit for 1 minute. Drain and shake dry in a colander.
Make garlic oil: In a separate pan, heat oil over medium-low heat. If using a wok, heat and swirl oil in a seasoned wok over high heat. Add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and pale golden. Do not burn.
Toss bok choy in garlic oil: Add bok choy and toss a few times in garlic oil, seasoning with salt at the end. Transfer bok choy to a serving plate, spooning any minced garlic hanging around the pan over the greens. Serve.