Fruit Nerd Thanh Truong Reveals His Six Best Leafy Asian Vegetables To Cook With Beyond Bok Choy

Bok choy is such an easy vegetable to add to Asian dishes that need some greenery.

It’s also very easy to find. But…it’s not the only leafy Asian green out there.

“Bok choy shouldn’t be considered a vegetable to be eaten in every Asian dish,” says Melbourne-based fruit and chef Thanh Truong.

“For example, I would rarely – if ever – use bok choy in a Vietnamese dish.”

Thanh shares six other Asian leafy vegetables beyond bok choy.

1. Gai lan (Chinese broccoli)

Gai lan is excellent in stir-fries or steamed.(ABC Everyday: Matthew Garrow)

“It can also be steamed.”

When looking for the perfect band, he recommends going with the shortest one.

“That means he’s younger, so every bite will be tender and much sweeter.”

2. Choy sum

Thanh describes choy sum as “lean bok choy”.(ABC Everyday: Matthew Garrow)

“Choy sum is basically lean bok choy [that] cooks in half the time,” says Thanh, adding that it’s another great stir-fry dish.

“With choy sum, you get the balance of leaf flavor and stem freshness and juiciness, which is a bonus if you can get it with bok choy.”

That said, Thanh says the shelf life of choy sum is half that of bok choy, so you’ll need to eat it faster.

Avoid clusters with dry leaves and stems that are not smooth.

3. Water spinach (kang kong)

To find a good bunch of water spinach, break a little at the base to test its crispness.(ABC Everyday: Matthew Garrow)

This one is Thanh’s favorite vegetable of all time. Why?

He says it’s great for stir-fries.

“And in Vietnamese cuisine, it’s often cooked with garlic and chili and sometimes fermented tofu or bean curd. It’s also grated and made into a garnish,” Thanh says.

When looking for a good bouquet, he recommends breaking off a single stem at the base and making sure it comes off well.

4. Gai choy (small mustard green)

Green mustard has a strong flavor – put it in a soup and Thanh says you can expect it to pick up around 50% of the flavor.(ABC Everyday: Matthew Garrow)

“I love it in chicken or pork bone broth,” Thanh says.

“[Mustard green] in a soup is significantly better than many other Asian vegetables because it imparts that earthy, grassy flavor – but also savory and spicy.

“It will probably take about 50% of the flavor of a soup.”

Thanh recommends keeping an eye out for healthy leaves and as little shrivel as possible when comparing clusters.

5. Wombok (Chinese cabbage)

Do you like kimchi? We have wombok to thank for that.(ABC Everyday: Matthew Garrow)

“It’s a superfood that’s also the base of kimchi.”

For everyday cooking, it has a fairly neutral flavor, meaning it “won’t take too much energy, but is great for adding crunch and texture,” he says.

“It’s not only excellent in stir-fries and soups, but also with beef and pork [dishes]and you can eat it raw – it’s good in salads.”

A final bonus? Womboks are usually huge, which means they go very far. In stores, look for womboks with leaves that are as spotless and crispy as possible.

6. Chinese chives

Thanh says Chinese chives (left) should be your go-to for dumplings and ground meat recipes. (ABC Everyday: Matthew Garrow)

Chinese chives are the spicier version of French chives you’re probably used to.

“They are flat rather than circular,” Thanh explains.

“Eaten raw, they have a spice and garlic flavor. If you’re making dumplings or mixing ground meat, this is it.

“You can also blow [them] with pork belly or heavy beef.”

The only downside to Chinese chives is that they don’t have the longest shelf life. So look for a band that is still able to stand and be sure to use it quickly after you get it home.

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Freeda S. Scott