The Mighty Pak Choi

Posted on Updated on

It is our “winter” here in Baja; the time for growing cool season crops like lettuce, cabbage, and Asian greens. As I have been posting, I am attempting to participate in the Dark Days Challenge. This week, my post is about one of our favorite Asian greens Choi: in this dinner Pak Choi. I grow both the full size plants and the smaller Tsai Choi.  Here are some photos of each in the garden.

A huge Pak Choi ready for harvest
Tsai Choi are much more compact

The big Choi here is destined for this dinner; it is huge and ready for harvest. Before I chopped it up, it filled my dishpan.  No photo of that, but here it is after I attacked it with my chef’s knife.

Chopped up and ready to cook

Before I chop it up I soak the entire head in cool water laced with a few tablespoons of vinegar to chase out any freeloaders. I garden organically so I don’t mind a few holes in my vegies. I handpick snails and it is easy to miss those tiny, tiny babies, but they are no match for the vinegar. I am not much on homemade escargot, too much effort to clean the snails and mine are usually too small anyway; it’s the big ones from next door that are the real problem. They know where the free lunch, or should I say dinner, lives.

I matched the chopped Choi with a few other ingredients: onions and some late ripening peppers from the garden and some local pork.

Sliced pork, peppers, onion, and Choi stems

Beside the Choi, the star of this dinner is some homemade Duck Sauce from our beautiful spring Santa Rosa plums. The sauce is way good and wonderful over rice.

Hmmm, rice… Not exactly local, since it doesn’t grow well here; it’s too arid. It does grow in central California just beyond my 150 mile range, so I am going to use it anyway. I do buy it in San Diego, so does that count? I could have just not admitted it but I wanted to show off the secret flavor of the day: homegrown lemon grass.

Steamed rice with crushed lemon grass

This represents a triumph of a sort for me: it is my third and only successful attempt at growing it. The two previous attempts met their demise at the overzealous weeding hands of Mr. M. After all it is lemon grass. I actually had to plant it in my vegetable garden because he is forbidden to weed there. (NO, don’t pull out those nettles! I need them!) But that is another story.

I steam the rice with homemade chicken stock, a bit of Kosher or sea salt and few smashed stalks of the aforementioned, highly prized lemon grass.

The Bok Choi stars in the stir fry:

Ready to serve

Here is the simple recipe:

2 locally grown boneless pork chops, or chicken thighs

1 Tbs fat or oil (I used some reserved fat from making stock)

1 Tbs dark sesame oil (I’m counting this as a spice)

1 large head of Bok Choi or other preferred greens, sliced crosswise

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

½ large green or ripe sweet pepper, or a few small ripe sweet peppers, thinly sliced

Several cloves of homegrown garlic, sliced, or chopped

1 pint homemade Duck Sauce (a half pint would work if less sauce is desired)

½ to 1 Tbs Cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tablespoon cold water, optional

Semi-freeze and thinly slice the meat. Heat fat and sesame oil, add sliced meat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the meat loses its pink color. Add onions, sliced stems of the Choi, and peppers and fry until the onions begin to soften. Add the garlic and sauce.  Add the leafy part of the Choi and cook until the leaves wilt. If the sauce is too liquid from the moisture in the leaves, thicken with the cornstarch.

I’m pretty sure that this dinner meets the SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, and ethical) requirements: well almost. And, if you are interested, here is the recipe for the

Duck Sauce

(loosely based on the Ball Blue Book’s Plum Sauce recipe, page 84)

4 pounds of Santa Rosa plums

2 cups grated pilonchillo sugar (Mexican cone sugar)

1 cup cane sugar

3/4 cup chopped onion

2 Tbs mustard seed (I get mine at a local Botannica,or herb store; it grows wild here)

1 chopped, roasted, peeled poblano chile

1 minced jalapeno or serrano chile

1 (1/4 X 1″) piece fresh ginger, minced or 1 tsp ground, dry ginger

3 garlic cloves

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 cup cider vinegar

Wash, pit and slice plums. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and add plums. Cook until plums are soft. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Cook until the thickness preferred. Ladle sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust two piece caps. Process 20 minutes in a boiling water bath. About 4 pints, but your mileage may vary.

Note: when my plums ripen, I have a lot so I double or triple this recipe. I put the sauce up in pints and half pints because it also makes a great dippng sauce.

One thought on “The Mighty Pak Choi

    cristina said:
    December 14, 2011 at 7:05 am

    Looks great! You always make everything sound so easy; it truly is inspiring.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s