Monday, May 19, 2008

Bok choy or Chinese Broccoli?


The setting: Dinner time, around the kitchen island at Katrina's house.

My roommate: Mmm, that looks good, what are you going to do with it?

Me: Um, probably just stir-fry it with some garlic and that salty magic mushroom seasoning my mom gives me. I got it from the Hmong stand at the farmers' market. I don't usually cook bok choy but these were so cute. Look at the little yellow flowers! (brief giggle)

My roommate: That's Chinese broccoli.

Me: No, it's not. It's bok choy. Baby bok choy.

My roommate: I used to work at the farmers' market. And I'm half Chinese. That's Chinese broccoli.

Me: You worked at the Ferry Building. Selling lavender. This is from the Noe Valley market. From the Hmongs. The sign said "baby bok choy."

My roommate: It's Chinese broccoli.

Me: [Silence.]
My roommate: [Silence.]

Now that I have the floor to myself, I'll say again, I swear it's baby bok choy. I think. Doesn't bok choy have white stalks and Chinese broccoli, green? Either way, it was fresh 'n' crunchy even after wilting in the frying pan. I also like to put bok choy in soup, like in a broth with diced tofu or with soba noodles and a base of miso, rice vinegar, and sweet sake (mirin).

I bought this little bunch from the Sunny Farm family-run stand at the Saturday morning Noe Valley farmers' market on 24th St. at Vicksburg, in the parking lot across from my favorite bookstore ever, Phoenix Books! Every time I head toward the stand, which comes at the end of the line, Erin mumbles, "I don't think they're organic," but I just pretend I don't really know what she's talking about. They admit to using Round Up twice a year but they also use compost, mint, and hand weeding. You can check out the stats on the farmers' market vendor page. Besides, the mom, Pao Thao, shares a name with my mom, Thao, so they're almost like family.

7 comments:

Stephen Dodson said...

It's bok choy.

eek said...

Yay! My fun-killing grumbles made it into your post! I'm proud you did some research to report back on farming practices, because these people really are some of the nicest vendors at any farmers' market I've attended. Nary an eyebrow raise or sullen, orange-sucking teen in sight. And the flowering bok choy is undeniably charming. I have to add that they look rather swiss-chard-esque in this photo as well... You sure it's not a hyperrealist cake masquerading as vegetable?

Katrina D. said...

Mm, good eye, both of you. Actually, they're surrealist brownies, but the likeness is so good, I thought I'd make up a story to go with them.

jef said...

looks like Irish broccoli to me...

juan said...

broccoli, bokchoy, and brussel sprouts are all varieties of one species and, as far as i know, theoretically cross-breedable. "chinese broccoli" seems more a category than a variety, since any form of "choy" would be both chinese and a form of broccoli. thus, bok choy harvesed at any size, choy sum at any size, gailans AND on choys are all "chinese broccoliS" (the plural embraces diversity). i can't actually parse that photo on this jankyass hostal-monitor so i'll have to reserve my judgment until a sampler platter of chinese broccolis is cooked for me (hint, hint).

Fran said...

All I know is, if it's flowery and sweet-ish like regular broccoli, it's probably Chinese Broccoli, and if it's leafy/crunchy like other veggies and bitter, it's probably Choy... Then again, I don't even know if that's how to classify them, because my parents call them both Chinese Broccoli...

Fran said...

I think what Juan said must be true, because a lot of the Bok Choy/Chinese Broccoli I've eaten seemed to have traits of both mixed... where the stalks are thick and white, crunchy and bitter as bok choy, but a few pieces have that flowery end and taste significantly sweeter than the other pieces just like chinese broccoli. So perhaps the one I often eat is some kind of hybrid. I see Chinese people also debating what's what, but I generally agree that the Bok Choy is the crunchy watery/bitter one, and Chinese broccoli(the standard one) being the darker green and more stick-shaped, and more soft chewable texture.