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Know Your Asian Greens

Asian greens make an excellent accompaniment to a meal as both a side dish or as part of a stir-fry. And not only are they inexpensive and quick to prepare, they also deliver a nice dose of nutrients. With literally dozens of Asian greens to choose from, you won’t be starved for choice.

What are the different varities?
There are a number of difference varieties of Asian greens, with the most common being bok choy, also known as pak choy, Chinese or Nappa cabbage, Chinese broccoli (Gai Lan) and choy sum (Chinese silver beet).

  • Bok Choy has small green leaves and white stalks and is often served as a garnish in Asian soups or as a steamed side dish with soy sauce. When preparing bok choy, separate each of the stalks prior to cooking. Because of its delicate leaves and fragile stalks, bok choy cooks extremely quickly. If cooking bok choy in a wok, be sure to add it as the last ingredient to avoid overcooking it, which will cause the leaves to wilt
  • Chinese Cabbage, also known as Nappa cabbage, is used widely in Asian cooking. It is a popular ingredient for salads but can also be added to stir fries. Slice finely prior to cooking
  • Chinese Broccoli takes longer to cook than the more fragile Asian greens like bok choy. Be sure to remove the outer husk of the stalk, as this will make it more tender when cooked. If using in a stir fry, it is advisable to blanche Chinese broccoli prior to adding to the wok to ensure that it cooks fully
  • Choy Sum is often referred to as the flowering bok choy due to the small yellow flowers on the tip of its leaves. Use the same care to prepare choy sum as you would when preparing bok choy to avoid overcooking it. Choy sum is often served at room temperature dressed with a small amount of sesame oil or soy sauce

Selecting and storing
When choosing Asian greens, look for crisp stalks with bright green, glossy leaves. Store Asian greens as you would store other greens but for best flavour, use within three days of purchase. In most cases, both the leaves and stalks can be eaten, but be sure to trim the stalks to remove any fibrous outer husk.

Preparing asian vegetables
Asian vegetables should be cooked quickly to seal in their flavour. The most common ways to cook Asian greens are boiling, steaming and stir-frying. Be sure to keep your eye on them while cooking as they can cook in as little as a minute depending on which way you prepare them.

Nutritional features
Most Asian greens come from the Brassica family of vegetables, which are typically rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium and can provide calcium and magnesium. Asian greens are also a kilojoule bargain, with one cup accounting for a mere 85 kJ as well as providing roughly 2 grams of fibre. In addition to being inexpensive and rich in nutrients, Asian greens are also extremely versatile. They can be used in stir fries, salads, and soups or simply as a side dish.

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