Asian vegetables have been in New Zealand since the Chinese first settled here in the late 1800s. There are hundreds of varieties of Asian vegetables with the varieties below being the most commonly found.
Chinese white cabbage (bok choy, buk choy, pak choy, pak choi, baak choi)
In New Zealand the most common Asian green is white bok choy. White bok choy has thick, white, crisp and juicy stems and smooth round leaves similar in texture to cabbage or silver beet. Shanghai bok choy has thick, green stems and similar leaves to white bok choy, but is smaller in size. All types of bok choy are suitable for quick cooking methods such as steaming and stir frying. Use like cabbage or spinach. Miniature bok choy leaves are used in some green salad mixes.
Peking cabbage (wong nga pak, wong nga baak or wong bok)
Peking cabbage has an elongated shape with crisp, juicy stalks and pale green, crisp leaves not unlike cos lettuce which form a heavy, compact head. Peking cabbage can be used raw in salads, or cooked in various ways, but it is most commonly used in fast cooking methods such as stir frying.
Chinese flat cabbage (Tat soi – Japanese name, Rosette bok choy or taai goo choi)
Chinese flat cabbage is round, relatively flat like a plate, with a stronger flavour and slightly tougher texture than Chinese white cabbage. Choose smaller cabbages with lots of young leaves clustered at the centre. Chinese flat cabbage suits quick moist cooking methods. The young centre leaves can be used raw in a salad. Miniature tat soi is regularly found in mesclun salad mixes.
Flowering Chinese cabbage (choy sum or choi sum)
Flowering Chinese cabbage has pale yellow flowers on long thin green stems with small green leaves. It is available all year round. Prepare flowering Chinese cabbage like broccoli using quick cooking methods. Use all parts of the stem, including the flowers. It is best to eat choy sum when the flowers are in bud rather than in full bloom.
Chinese broccoli (Chinese sprouting broccoli, Chinese kale – gaai laan)
Chinese broccoli has long green stems (about 2 cm in diameter and 20 cm long), white flowers and green leaves which have a white haze on them. The flowers should be in bud rather than in full bloom. To prepare, chop the leaves roughly. Peel the stem to get rid of the fibrous layer and cut into evenly-sized pieces. Stir frying or steaming are the most common cooking methods. It has a very strong broccoli flavour and can be used instead of broccoli.
Many Asian vegetables are a good source of vitamins A, C and K, and contain a dietary significant amount of potassium.
Always refrigerate in plastic bags to keep fresher for longer.
Asian greens are most commonly used raw, blanched or in stir fries.
Add Asian greens to your next salad or stir fry to add an extra element of flavour and serving of vege.