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Why It Pays To Cook Bok Choy Instead Of Using It Raw In A Salad

Bok choy, mushrooms, and garlic
Bok choy, mushrooms, and garlic - Kritchai7752/Shutterstock

If you're out of spinach or arugula, bok choy serves as a trusty alternative for raw dishes like a crunchy bok choy salad. While it functions well in that role, the vegetable is extremely mild, which doesn't give you much room to work with. To explore the versatility of bok choy, try cooking it.

In its natural state, bok choy has the crunch of celery with a vegetal taste that's akin to lettuce or cabbage. It's perfectly safe to consume raw, but bok choy blooms when heat is added. From there, it can crisp up while retaining its juicy disposition or soften into a delicate green. As well as changing textures, it's a blank slate that takes on the nuances of the other ingredients it's cooked with. A common way that bok choy is enjoyed is in a simple miso soup. Coming together quite quickly, the bok choy absorbs the spicy, umami flavors while becoming tender.

Although bok choy soup tastes delightful, braising might give the vegetable a more intense taste since it's cooked for a longer amount of time. The bok choy is seared beforehand to ignite that delicious Maillard Reaction and simmered for slightly longer, giving the braising liquid time to seep into the vegetable. However, it's the initial caramelization that makes a big impact on the bok choy. Pan-searing and roasting delicately browns the vegetable, deepening its mild flavor. It also does wonders for the texture, giving it a beautiful crisp and tender finish.

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Add Cooked Bok Choy To These Recipes

Sauteed bok choy with sesame seeds
Sauteed bok choy with sesame seeds - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

When paired with rich beef in braised coconut beef ribs, it may be hard for bok choy to hold its own — yet, it does. Though it's only cooked for around 30 minutes in comparison to the long, extended simmer the beef ribs have been subjected to, that half hour is enough for the bok choy to absorb all of the sweet, rich flavors of the coconut milk and beef broth. Punctuated with crunchy sesame seeds, the tender bok choy is the underrated star of this Thai-inspired meal.

As delicious as it is in Asian fusion dishes, bok choy can be used in a variety of cuisines. Its light flavor allows it to traverse dishes, making it perfect for all kinds of soups and noodle recipes. Bok choy seasoned with lemon and garlic makes a hearty side to spicy shrimp scampi. After heating olive oil and minced garlic for a few minutes, brown the bok choy and finish it off with a squeeze of zesty lemon juice.

If you'd rather caramelize it via roasting, chop up bok choy for a baked salad. While heartier greens like kale and Brussels sprouts are typically used for baked salads, bok choy turns tender, yet crisp, under the heat of the oven, making it a unique baked salad base. Top it with green onions, sliced carrots, sesame-crusted tuna steak, and a sweet miso and garlic dressing.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.