Crisp Stir-fry Greens with Veggie Oyster Sauce
Bright green, cooked only until tender but still crisp greens are appropriate companions for nearly any Asian meal. This technique is normally used just for Chinese broccoli, but it’s good enough for any cooking green. It’s not so much the kind of green you use, but how you use it: a wok comes in very handy (but not essential), and dividing the leafy tops from the thicker stalks is also key. Either way, these are the simple, fast, easy green things you want when putting dinner on the table.
Asian greens are the obvious choice: bok choy, Chinese broccoli (gai lan), spicy Chinese mustard greens (Gai Choy) but Western broccoli, kale, collards and even just big fluffy mounds of shredded cabbage (Napa, Savoy or plain old green) feel right at home. Sweet, yummy pea shoot greens are a delicate and delicious addition to any of these greens. This is a good place to test drive any mystery tender Asian cooking green you might encounter at an ethnic grocery.
Use this method to get more veggies into your day. Choose greens that are firm and fresh-looking, without overly dried stems or wilted, sagging leaves. Flowers on the Chinese broccoli and related vegetables are fine, preferably the buds should be unopened and firm. There are multiple ways to season your veggies: I recommend picking one, maybe two at the most. These greens should be uncomplicated and fresh tasting, serving as friends to more intensely flavored dishes.
Tip: If using Western broccoli, it’s best to stir fry this on it’s own, being thicker than those other leafy greens. Remove stalks from the head, peel the stalks with a vegetable peeler and slice into 1/4 thick batons. Slice the florets into pieces no thicker than 1/2 inch. Saute the stems first for 2 minutes, then add the florets and proceed as directed below. Broccoli will take about 2-4 minutes longer to cook than most leafy greens.
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of baby bok choy, Chinese broccoli, Chinese mustard greens, Napa cabbage, collards, kale, pea shoot greens or a combination of 2 or more
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil or high heat cooking canola oil
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons vegetable broth or water
- Pinch of salt (optional)
- 3 tablespoons vegetarian stir-fry (vegetarian oyster) sauce
1. Wash greens and spin dry. Trim away any dried ends of stems or wilted leaves. Separate thick stems from leaves.
If using bok choy or cabbage, slice off the bottom root end.
If using leafy greens like bok choy or Chinese broccoli chop leaves away from stems.
If using kale or collards (remove and discard stems) or cabbage, stack and roll leaves and slice into 1/2 inch wide ribbons.
2. Preheat wok over high heat and swirl in peanut oil; when oil ripples it’s ready to use.
If using greens with thick stems, add the stems first and the garlic and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the leaves and the vegetable broth and the salt (if using), and stir fry 1 minute. Cover the wok and let steam 1-3 minute or until leaves are wilted and stems are crisp tender. Use long handled tongs to lift the greens from the wok and arrange on a serving dish. Stir the vegetarian stir-fry sauce into the remaining bubbling juices in the wok (if there absolutely are none, add 2 tablespoons of broth or water) and bring to a simmer. Pour over vegetables and serve.
If using cabbage or leafy greens without stems, fry the garlic for 15 seconds and then add handfuls of the chopped greens, stirring constantly, until all of the greens are in the wok and just beginning to wilt. Add the vegetable broth/water and salt if using and stir fry 1 minute. Cover and stem for 2-4 minutes or until greens are tender but still crisp. Use long handled tongs to lift the greens from the wok and arrange on a serving dish. Add the stir-fry sauce as directed above and pour on top of vegetables.
Try adding one of the following to the stir fry just before adding the green’s stems
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 whole star anise (remove before serving)
1/2 thick piece of peeled ginger, sliced into thin slivers
Just before serving, drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil over greens.