If you haven't tried tender-crisp, juicy baby bok choy, then you're really in for a treat! I have a favorite Asian market here in Reno, Nevada - Asian 168 on the corner of Gentry Way and South VIrginia St., where I can always count on a beautiful selection of wok-worthy vegetables. Since I was in there the other day, I happened to notice the bags of these gem-like green beauties and simply couldn't resist.
You can see how gorgeous these small versions of the usually larger bok choy just seem to dance with delicious energy. They are more tender, less fibrous than their larger, longer-stemmed counterparts. The flavor is sweet and clean with just a hint of pepper/bitter. Baby bok choy is part of a massive family of Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa) plants that have been cultivated since the 1400s.
What I buy is often the immature plant, as opposed to the 'dwarf' strain which is even shorter and stouter. But, don't fret about these details. Buy what you have available. Just select bright green tops and stalks, and the leaves should not show signs of wilting or discoloration. If you can find an Asian market that does a brisk business, you'll be assured of fresh bok choy. My Chinese and Thai friends here in town wouldn't even consider buying 'second rate' produce. They take 'picky' to a whole new level.
You might notice that I slice the individual plants through the middle once, then again, dividing them into 'quarters'. This makes cooking quick and even, and also makes them easy to pick up and eat with chopsticks.
In this dish, I marinated slices of extra-firm, drained tofu in a bit of Mirin, and a splash of soy sauce for about 30 minutes before cooking. If you're not familiar with Mirin, it's that indefinable savory/sweet something that you'll often encounter in Japanese dishes. Mirin is a subtly sweet rice wine, and if you haven't got a bottle in your pantry, you should. I use it in Asian dishes, of course, but also salad dressings and sauces where I need a little something 'more' ... a sweet tang. An Umami thing. Mirin and soy sauce are the basis of Teriyaki. So, with both items in the pantry, you'll never need to buy a separate bottle of Teriyaki sauce.
You might wonder what the difference is between the more common Aji-Mirin and Mirin. Aji-Mirin is literally 'tastes like Mirin'. It's cut with more sweetener. It's also more widely available and less expensive than Mirin. They're interchangeable for most purposes.
Aside from the tofu and baby bok choy, I included: one half of a large onion, sliced, about 2 teaspoons of finely sliced fresh ginger, about two cups of halved cherry tomatoes. As you can see, I also have about 1 cup of No-chicken broth and a small jar (over on the right) with a corn starch 'slurry' for thickening the sauce at the end. You'll want about 1 tablespoon of corn starch for about ½ cup of COLD water. Shake or stir it thoroughly, and have it ready to splash in at the end. I keep the slurry in a jar so that I can give it a good shake before pouring it in.
You might have noticed that I have an induction cooktop. I finally got rid of my old gas cooktop a couple of years ago. My flat-bottomed wok works just great on the induction surface. It gets blazing hot in seconds and cools down almost as fast. I'm very happy with the responsive performance of induction. If you have a gas cooktop, and don't mind using a wok ring, then buy a round bottomed wok. I don't need a ring on an induction cooktop.
Another thing to note, the 'wok hay' on the inside of my wok. Wok hay is a Cantonese phrase used to describe a particular essence and aroma that is created in a dish when authentic stir-frying is performed. “Hay” means “energy” or “breath”; therefore, “wok hay” means “the energy or breath of a wok”. If you've properly seasoned and cared for a decent wok, it should develop that rich dark color. That's a 'non-stick' surface, and the last thing you want to do is scrub that all off when you clean your wok My Chinese friends here in Reno, they just add some warm water to their woks when done cooking, swish it around with a natural fiber brush a few times, rinse well and then heat the wok again - with a bit of oil - over the burner. I've stood out in their backyards - in blinding snowstorms! - cooking with them over propane wok burners that were hotter than the back gate to hell. Anyway, let the wok cool, and put it away.
Unlike my Chinese friends, I don't use oil. Don't need it. A splash of broth - or water - is all you need. In fact, in the kitchens of Chinese restaurants (that's another friend) I've watched the cooks splash ladles of hot broth into blazing hot woks as they toss the ingredients high into the air. It's great fun to watch! You want the wok HOT, and you need to keep the food moving. I keep a small ladle in my broth to give it all a splash as needed.
Above, I'm 'seasoning' the wok with the onions and ginger before adding the next round of ingredients.
Dump in the baby bok choy, and keep all of it moving. I might dial back the heat a little here. But, believe me, it's still hot. Each splash of stock creates an aromatic steam that quick cooks the ingredients.
Toss in the remaining ingredients - in this case, the sliced cherry tomatoes - and keep on keepin' on. Moving food. Adding a splash.
Next, add the rest of the broth and the corn starch slurry and bring up the heat so the slurry begins to boil and thicken.
Now, I'm adding the marinated tofu in, right near the end, so that it just heats through.
Plate those delicious vegetables and sauce up! I'll usually 'dust' them with a couple pinches of sea kelp for both interest and the added nutritional value.
I hope you've made some rice to go with this.
If you're shopping for Mirin, here's an affiliate link.
If you're shopping for a wok, here's an affiliate link for those.
Hey, if you like or make this dish, would you mind posting the recipe to Yummly? I'd really appreciate that. The Yummly icon is on the right side of this webpage. Oh, and saving to Pinterest would also be great! Each photo should have a Pinterest icon in the upper left corner! Thanks!
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