Bok Choy leaves are hard to chew

Every now and then when I cook bok choy, the leaves (not the white part) will be hard to chew, no matter how long I braise. It happens maybe 1 out of every 5 times. I am thinking maybe it happens when I cook too long before checking for doneness the first time. Is it possible to over-braise bok choy?

I don’t braise my bok choy but whether its fiberous depends on how big the bok choy is. The bok choy sold in western markets are usually big and fiberous to my taste. Even the baby bok choy are usually a little old. Check out your Asian grocer around to see if they are any better.

Too old:

The top two below are more tender:

Bok choy rabe- heavenly.

Hence, try getting the smallest size you can find.

2 Likes

Pretty much what sck said. There are also two popular types of Bok Choy.

The Bok Choy which looks like this – with a more “distinctive white stem and dark green leaf” appearance:

and the Shanghai Bok Choy with a more uniform color:

I believe Shanghai Bok Choy more tender.

1 Like

Because they’re more stringy, are the big ones intended more to be sliced for a stir fry than eaten in big lengths? (Or is it less about intention, and more about shelf life or marketability)?

I purchase the ones labeled “Shanghai” at my local HMart, although sometimes the stalks are whiter than other times. The regular kind in the very first picture above, I gave up on those long time ago. The farmers markets ones I eat raw half the time, but sometimes even those will end up fibrous when braising. Now that I think about it, it probably is correlated with size.

I once planted several Bok Choy, the first one consumed was tender while we had several maturing more or less the same time, the one consumed some 3 weeks later, was chewy and too much fibers. Same experience with cabbage and feva beans too.

Don’t tempt to buy “big” vegetables.

Ditto to many of the previous comments. I almost exclusively buy the shanghai baby bok choy these days because I find them tender and versatile for stir fries, quick blanches, etc. I’ve had regular bok choy sliced and stir fried, or really chopped up to be added into other mixtures for texture. I think think cutting up the leaves helps with the chew issue so I haven’t noticed it as much.

I definitely agree the Asian veggies I find in the few Western markets locally tend to be much older and mature plants. It’s one thing if they weren’t turning around quickly, and were just looking sad and withered. They often seemed harvested well past their prime, IMO.

1 Like

Also, keep in mind that if you cook vegetables in acidic liquid, it takes longer to tenderize them. People know about this with legumes, but it applies, to a lesser extent, across the board.

That’s very interesting. With bok choy I always add vinegar early, with collards I add it later. Not sure why I do that. I’ll try no vinegar next time and see how it works out.

You can add the vinegar once the greens are tender, since re-toughening doesn’t happen. Please post back to us if this makes a difference.

Really? I didn’t know this. I got to try to. Sometime I want to keep the vegetable crispy, so maybe I should add a little acid.

Lidia Bastianich said so on one of her shows. Upon reflection, I realized I had experienced this when cooking a whole carrot in tomato sauce (which is supposed to sweeten it, though I didn’t think it did). I don’t think you’ll achieve “crispy” with this method; more like firmer/harder. This can be desirable in certain circumstances.

I think I also get bitten by this when making blueberry sauce. Sometimes it takes much longer for the blueberries to soften. Must be because I add the lemon juice early. Does the pith also contain acid?

We have never experienced tough bok choy leaves and we’ve been buying and eating all varieties of bok choy for a long time. Both our local Asian market, WF, and a local market chain sell really fresh bok choy. We have steamed it, stir-fried it, and tossed it into hot pot. It seems to me that we have even cooked stir-fries with Chinkiang vinegar without the effect mentioned.

Two batches of braised bok choy this week, both came out perfect. I’ll keep at it, purposely buy the larger bok choy next week, and post back.

Related note, my mother tells me “don’t you know lemon juice will prevent tenderizing vegetables” (came up in a discussion about asparagus). So it’s also common wisdom in Pakistani cooking. Seems like I need to listen to her instead of learning from “Internet”.

1 Like
“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold