Yu Choy has floppy leaves that drape lazily around clusters of tiny, yellow flowers. The first time I bought a bunch from a farmer in Pike Place Market I had no idea what it was.
I nodded cluelessly when the farmer told me its name the third time. My ears were messed up from being on an airplane the day before and I just couldn’t ask her to say it again. Besides I was busy staring at her hands which were strong, parched and looked completely capable of tilling earth without tools. I’m like that: small person, strong hands. Paws that can make stuff.
Anyway, I was looking at the farmer’s hands when she passed me a Yu Choy bundle. She said it was, “…sharp like mustard. Flower, leaf, stem…eat whole thing.” I heard that.
Then I made it into a pesto-esque concoction that I loved on everything from sandwiches to pasta.
I decided I was a genius.
It took this genius a year to find Yu Choy again and identify it. I looked out for the old farmer with the strong hands but the part of summer when locals sell vegetables from tables set up on the cobblestone streets, Farm Days, had passed.
Almost a year later I was cruising around Uwajimaya when I saw yellow flowers peeking out from drapey leaves. There it was piled in a pyramid with a little sign above it that read something like, “Yu Choy: steam or stir fry.” Hmmm. What about a pesto application, people?
Yu Choy is related to Chinese broccoli, Gai Lan, and rabe. It is harvested as soon as the stems boost which means as soon as the stems shoot up to support those dainty, yellow flowers. It’s commonly used in Asian dishes so if you can shop at an international market or an Asian market you will likely find Yu Choy hanging out, looking pretty.
Yu Choy is delicious when cooked simply and quickly. I like to stir fry it in sesame oil with whole garlic cloves, shitake mushrooms, a generous splash of stock and a pinch of salt. Yu Choy is slightly sharp in a spinach meets mustard green way yet also mildly sweet.
I haven’t made my genius Yu Choy pesto again but I will. Here’s my current favorite way to prepare Yu Choy:
Recipe: Yu Choy
Summary: Yu Choy stir fried with Shitake mushrooms and whole garlic cloves
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
- 6-8 whole, peeled garlic cloves
- 4 Shitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1 bunch (approx. 4 cups) Yu Choy, chopped into 3 inch pieces, use stems, leaves and flowers
- pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
- sesame seeds to garnish *optional
- Heat the sesame oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the whole garlic cloves and let them sizzle until they turn golden brown. About 1-2 minutes per side.
- Add the mushrooms and stir to get them coated in oil.
- Add the stock, Yu Choy and a pinch of salt.
- Let the stock cook off while you stir the greens over medium heat. Approximately 1-2 minutes. The Yu Choy stalks should be tender and the leaves should be slightly wilted.
- Garnish with sesame seeds if you have them.
- Enjoy Yu Choy!
Cook Yu Choy in a wok if you have one. At the moment I’m wokless so I used a heavy-bottomed pan. Include the stems which are the part of Yu Choy that gives a light, sweet taste.
Preparation time: 4 minutes
Cooking time: 5-7 minutes
Culinary tradition: Chinese
Servings: 4 servings, as a side dish
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Recipe by fat pig.
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