Monday, June 17, 2013

Baby Bok Choy + Napa Cabbage Stir Fry

The growing season is underway and we already have some interesting vegetables ready to be harvested and eaten. This week's star vegetables include baby bok choy, napa cabbage and green onions. 

When I think of napa cabbage and green onions, I often think of pot stickers, but I thought I'd post a stir fry recipe to also incorporate the bok choy. However, if you have a hankering for pot stickers, than I recommend this basic recipe.

I am fairly new to eating both bok choy and napa cabbage. In the past year or so, I have learned that bok choy is awesome in a stir fry because it provides a crunchy element along with its cooked greens. Napa cabbage is great fresh, but it also holds up well in a stir fry.

I find that when I eat stir fry at most Thai restaurants, it is often very sweet. So if I want a Thai-style dish, I prefer to make it at home (or I'll go to Pok Pok if I'm in Portland). I have an excellent Thai cookbook with several recipes that are not too sweet and are very flavorful. This particular stir fry recipe tastes a lot like the rich stir fry noodles dishes I would sometimes get from the Portland food carts.

At first glance, this stir fry recipe may seem intimidating. Do not fret! The only difficulty in a recipe like this one is in the preparation. The actual cooking stage takes less than 10 minutes and does not require any fancy cooking skills. I tried to organize the recipe as clearly as possible so that the preparation stage would not feel overwhelming.

**If this recipe seems too complicated, I intend to post a simple napa cabbage salad recipe with a creamy parmesan dressing later in the week.

Like leeks, napa cabbage can hide a lot of dirt in its crevices. When you remove the large outer leaves and cut the bottom off, make sure to give the cabbage a good rinse.

This stir fry recipe will be very easy if you put the ingredients in separate bowls near or on the stovetop. The actual cooking happens in a flurry so it is helpful to have the ingredients within an arms reach. This recipe will give you the opportunity to pull out those small dishes you have in the cabinet that you rarely use. 

See? It's not so intimidating.
Once all of the ingredients are prepared, you can breathe a sigh of relief. The stir fry process will be quick and painless. I like to have my bottle of oil open and ready to pour during the process.

Baby Bok Choy and Napa Cabbage Stir Fry
adapted from Real Thai

makes 4 to 5 servings

This stir fry is not spicy. If you want some heat, add about 1/4 tsp of red chili flakes or a chopped small red thai chili with the garlic. 

Also, if you are unsure about how to prepare the bok choy and napa cabbage, the preparation instructions below will provide details. 

4 baby bok choy (pak choi), or roughly 3 cups chopped
1/4 of a napa cabbage, or roughly 3 cups chopped
1/2 lb flank or skirt steak
1/2 lb wide rice noodles
2 eggs, beaten
6 large garlic cloves
3 to 4 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp rice or white vinegar
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 green onions, sliced


1. Prepare noodles according to package instructions or do the following: Fill a tea kettle with water and heat just before boiling. In a large bowl, soak noodles with the hot water for 25 to 30 minutes. The noodles should be almost tender.

2. In the meantime, stick the steak in the freezer for about 20 minutes. This step will make it easier to thinly slice. 

3. While the noodles are sitting in the hot water and the steak is in the freezer, mix together the soy sauce, brown sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and black pepper in a small bowl. Stir in the green onions. Set near stovetop.

4. Cut off the bottom 1/2 inch of each baby bok choi and discard. Cut the stem into 1/2-inch slices. The leafy part can be cut in larger slices, about 1 1/2 inches. Remove the large outer leaves of the napa cabbage. Slice off the bottom inch of the cabbage and discard. Like the bok choi, slice the stem part in 1/2-inch slices and the leafy part in about 1 1/2-inch slices. All together, you should have roughly 6 cups of chopped vegetables.

5. Coarsely chop the garlic and set near stovetop. Beat eggs in a small dish and set near stovetop.

6. Take steak out of freezer and slice against the grain in 1/8-inch pieces. Depending on the size of the steak, you may want to cut the slices in half lengthwise. Sprinkle evenly with a big pinch or two of salt.

7. Drain the noodles. Set near stovetop.

Stir and Fry

1. In a wok, large cast iron pan, or large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil on medium-high until hot. Add garlic and fry, stirring constantly for 15 seconds. Add the bok choy and cabbage. Cook, stirring constantly until greens are shiny and stems are tender, about 2 minutes. Scrape greens and garlic back into bowl. 

2. Add another tablespoon of oil to the hot pan. Add the steak and let sit undisturbed for 1 minute.  Stir steak and continue to cook until no longer pink, about another minute. Remove and add to bowl with greens.

3. Add about another tablespoon of oil to pan. Before pan can get too hot, immediately add noodles and gently toss to coat with oil, about 20 seconds. Push noodles to edge of pan. 

4. Add a teaspoon of oil to the open part of the pan. Add the beaten eggs and let sit for about 20 seconds. Scramble and cook through. Toss noodles with eggs.

5. Add beef and greens to noodles and stir to combine. Add soy sauce mixture and cook for another minute. Serve. 


  1. I just love these kinds of stir fry recipes. I love meat with stir fry. Can't get enough of it. I hope I can make this right. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  2. Thanks for checking out the blog! If you have any questions or run into any issues, I am fairly quick to respond to comments. Thanks again!

  3. Excited to give this recipe a try! Also, I just saw that morel photo from your old backyard (neat!) -- it reminded me that I picked up some morels from the market this past weekend, but I don't have a stellar plan for them yet. I'm thinking something quiche-y, inspired by a morel quiche I had at the Catalyst a couple years ago. Any good recipe ideas?

  4. Thanks for the comment, Erika! I love morels in a quiche. Check out my Quiche with Chanterelles recipe, which you could easily substitute with morels:

    I recently cooked up some morels with pasta. Here's a quick recipe: I cooked down the morels with butter, shallots, and chard. I also gently cooked some cream with a smashed garlic clove and a sprig of thyme until slightly thickened (I then removed the garlic and thyme). I threw everything together and tossed it over some cooked pasta with some grated parmesan. It was divine.

  5. Hi amiga. This post is beautiful! Miss you. My summer motto: K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, sweetie). Love you~

  6. I am going to use chicken instead of beef do you think that will be ok