If you have had the chance to join a meal in a Cantonese home, you may have noticed that majority of the dishes, if not all, are vegetable-based. Maybe the reason is that vegetables are almost always the cheapest source of food, or maybe it’s because there are so many vegetable options in Chinese cuisine! From bok choy to rapeseed leaves to chayotes (we call them hap jeung gwa), I love them all!
Vegetables are an integral part of my family’s diet. Stepping foot into my mom’s garden, you can immediately find yourself immersed into patches of young tender mustard greens at your foot with vines of chayotes hanging down from above. Nothing beats freshly plucked greens from a garden. But if you don’t have the luxury of growing your own or knowing someone who does, you can still find a great variety of Asian veggies at farmer’s markets or Asian grocery stores. If you have never ventured into the Asian produce aisles, I challenge you right now to just go over there and pick a new variety to try out!
The simplest yet tasty method of cooking vegetables is the Cantonese way of partial steaming/stir-frying. And it only requires at most 4 ingredients in which 3 of them I’m 99% sure you already have at home (plus salt for seasoning)! Cantonese cooking places a great amount of emphasis on the natural taste and texture of fresh ingredients and I believe this recipe definitely exemplifies this philosophy. This recipe works with a great variety of veggies (broccoli, all types of bok choy, kale, napa cabbage). Gai Lan and string beans, however, tastes best with a different method, so stay tuned for my post on those.
1 bundle of bok choy
3 cloves of garlic, minced or whole as preferred (add more for a garlickier taste)
For bok choy, be sure to thoroughly rinse off all soil. Heat up the oil in a pan with a lid large enough for all of the vegetable to fit. When the oil is shimmering but not smoking, carefully add the garlic into the oil.
As the garlic becomes fragrant but not yet browned, add in the bok choy (browned garlic will turn bitter). Stir the bok choy to nicely coat it with the oil. Add about 3 tbsp of water, just enough to create a small layer of water at the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan, leaving a slight slit for steam to vent. Let the vegetable steam until the vegetable is cooked but tender, about 4-5 minutes.
Uncover and season the vegetable with salt to taste. Stir so the salt is nicely infused throughout. Remove from heat and quickly plate the vegetable so they do not continue to cook in the pan.