This simple stir-fried baby bok choy with garlic is an essential vegetable dish in Chinese cooking. It is full of taste, tender yet crunchy, healthy – and on top of it all, very easy to make. You only need a handful of ingredients, and about 15 minutes of your time.
When we lived in China, I ate bok choy every week. Towards the end of our time there, I learned how to make it on order to enjoy it over here in Germany as well. I just had to, as it is one of my favourite vegetables! Luckily, baby bok choy is becoming more easily available in the West, so it should not be a problem to find these delicious green leafy veggies in a grocery shop or Asia foods store.
Pair this stir-fried baby bok choy stir fry with a few other Chinese dishes for an authentic home-cooked shared dinner. Serve it with low carb cauliflower rice – or steamed rice for those eaters not on a low carb diet.
Eating Chinese is a great way to enjoy all sorts of vegetables. They play a much larger role at China’s dinner tables than in the more protein-focused traditional Western cooking. Usually, diners share a few vegetable dishes, a meat or fish dish, maybe another tofu dish – and a staple such as noodles, rice or dumplings. On a low carb diet, rice is the most easily replaced staple, because you can quickly make your own cauliflower rice in minutes or even buy cauli rice in the supermarket. Frying the cauli rice takes even less time than steaming rice.
About bok choy🥬
Bok choy is a green leafy vegetable that belongs to the family of Chinese cabbage. It doesn’t form a firm head though, but rather has lighter bulb-style bottoms with loose leaves that easily fall off when handling the vegetable. Bok choy grows basically everywhere in China and in many parts of Southeast Asia. So it forms part of the cuisine not only in China itself, but also in countries like Thailand. You can also spell it pak choi or pok choi. The word originates from Cantonese, spoken in China’s south, meaning “white vegetable”.
Yet there are several times of bok choy, some of which have strong white stems and dark green leaves. Baby bok choy, also called Shanghai bok choy, has light green stems and spoon-like leaves. These leafy delights come in various sizes. I like the smaller variety that is around 6-8 cm long, as it is easier to cook than larger bok choy and a bit more tender. So I am using it here for this easy recipe.
Like many vegetables, bok choy is not only super yummy but also pretty healthy. It contains a generous dose of vitamin A and is also a good source of vitamin C and K, and of dietary fibre.
Choose bok choy with fresh-looking, bright green leaves and try to use it quickly – ideally within two days of purchasing it. If you have to store it, put it into an airtight container and in your fridge. Bok choy is tasty as long as the leaves are green and not wilted.
Apart from the bok choy, you only need a handful of basic ingredients: Garlic cloves, rapeseed oil for frying, soy sauce or tamari, salt and a pinch of low carb sweetener to balance the seasoning.
OK, now let’s get to making your bok choy!
First of all, it is important that your bok choy is completely clean and as dry as possible. In China, thoroughly washing and rinsing vegetables traditionally constitutes a large part of cooking prep work. First, slice off the hard and sometimes dirty ends of the stems, so that some of the outer leaves are falling off. Keep the good leaves and toss the ones with holes or that have wilted and turned yellowish. Then fill some water into your sink and soak bok choy – intact bulbs and single leaves – for 10 minutes or so. After that, check whether you can still see some dirt in between the leaves (mostly near the stems), and rinse the vegetable. Set it aside in a colander to drain.
As bok choy is fried only briefly, make sure that all your veg pieces are roughly the same size. Pull more outer leaves off and keep only small bundles of inner leaves together. If you have larger plants, consider chopping them in half or quarters. Or cut off the upper part of each leaf mostly consisting of the green part, and chop the white parts into bite-sized pieces. That way, the white stem pieces are cooking faster. You can also put the white parts into the wok or pan two minutes before you add the leaves. With small baby bok choy, you can usually avoid that and throw everything in together.
For the other, precious few ingredients: Chop or slice garlic cloves. Prepare soy sauce, salt and sweetener near your stove so they are at hand as you will need them quickly and in a short time span. Soy sauce contains a bit of gluten, so use the Japanese soy sauce tamari as a gluten-free alternative. It is darker, less salty, and has a strong umami flavor.
Stir-frying is always best in a wok. Heat is concentrated at the bottom – and the wok is large enough to vigorously swirl the bok choy around. If you don’t have a wok, use a non-stick pan with a high rim instead.
Put the wok at high heat, add oil and then your garlic. Once the garlic starts browning, throw in the bok choy and stir-fry vigorously. No worries, if it first appears to be a lot of vegetable. Bok choy, and especially the leaves, will wilt and shrink quickly. Once the leaves have started to wilt, add salt and coconut sugar or a brown keto sweetener. Mix in well and reduce heat to medium. Once the stems have become tender, add the soy sauce. Taste and see whether you feel you need to add more salt or soy sauce.
If you are planning to make a full Chinese meal with several dishes, chop ingredients for all of them first, before starting the cooking process. Then group the ingredients for each dish together. That will help you stay organized and reduces stress once you start tossing your ingredients into a wok. As you fry baby bok choy in a whirlwind, and it cools quickly, make this dish only after finishing the other dishes in order to keep everything fresh and warm before serving.
To keep it low carb, serve your stir-fried bok choy with cauliflower rice that is quick and easy to make yourself. A quick tip for the timing: Chop and blend the cauli before making the bok choy. After those steps are finished, frying the cauli rice takes only a whirlwind and can be done either directly before you enter your bok choy into the wok, or even afterwards.
For a full Asia-style shared dinner, choose a few more Chinese dishes to pair your bok choy with. From my website, check out:
- juicy kung pao chicken with peanuts
- quick stir-fried broccoli with garlic
- delicious and spicy mapo tofu
- spicy chinese stir-fried cabbage
You can see, there are more vegetables to pair your bok choy with, as it is done in China. Many also eat stir-fried bok choy as a side for a large bowl of hot noodle soup. Check out my low carb version of the traditional Chinese beef noodle soup if you like to slurp a bowl of soup with your bok choy.
Delicious stir-fried baby bok choy with garlic! Full of taste, tender yet crunchy, healthy and quick to make, this is an essential dish in Chinese cuisine.
Check more details about how to make this recipe in my blog post above.
Serving 2 as a standalone dish or 4 as part of a shared Chinese dinner with several dishes
500g (8oz) baby bok choy
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
3 garlic gloves, chopped or sliced
1–2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1/4 tsp sea salt or more to taste
1/2 tsp coconut sugar or brown keto sweetener (such as sukrin gold)
- Thoroughly wash your bok choy. First, finely slice off the end of the stems. Some leaves may fall off when you do that. Soak leaves and all bok choy bulbs in your sink for about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander.
- Chop or slice garlic cloves. Prepare soy sauce or tamari, salt and sweetener so they are at hand as you will need them quickly and in a short time span.
- Put a wok or non-stick pan at high heat, add rapeseed oil and then your garlic. Once the garlic starts browning, throw in the bok choy and stir-fry vigorously. No worries if the leaves seem to be a lot of vegetable. Bok choy, and especially the leaves will wilt and shrink quickly.
- Once the leaves have started to wilt, add salt and coconut sugar or brown keto sweetener. Mix in well.
- When the stems are tender, add the soy sauce. Taste and see whether you feel you need to add more salt or soy sauce.
- Serve immediately as part of an Asian dinner or standalone dish with home made cauliflower rice.
Choose bok choy with fresh-looking, bright green leaves and try to use it quickly, ideally within two days of buying it. If you have to store it, put it into an airtight container and in your fridge. It is tasty as long as the leaves are green and not wilted.
If you have larger plants, consider chopping them in half or quarters. Or cut off the upper part of each leaf mostly consisting of the green part, and chop the white parts into bite-sized pieces. That way, the white stem pieces are cooking faster. You can also put the white parts into the wok or pan two minutes before you add the leaves.
A quick tip for the timing for making cauliflower rice: Chop and blend the cauli before preparing and making the bok choy. After those steps are finished, frying the cauli rice takes only a whirlwind and can be done either directly before you enter your bok choy into the wok, or even afterwards.
- Category: meals
- Method: stir-fry
- Cuisine: Chinese