Some variation of tumis sayur, a side dish of stir-fried greens, is often found on the Indonesian, Malaysian, and Singaporean dinner table. Three ingredients — Shanghai bok choy, garlic, and fresh chiles — come together within minutes to create a simple but satisfying addition to any meal. The fresh chiles are essential in this dish. Aside from adding a bit of heat, it adds smokiness that complements the garlic aroma well.
Needless to say, such simple flavorings call for the freshest greens cooked as briefly as possible. Best served immediately, begin stir-frying once the table is set and the rest of the meal is ready.
Arguably China’s most well-known vegetables, regular bok choy and Shanghai bok choy can be easily confused with each other. One easy way to distinguish each varietal from the other is to compare the colors of the stalks and leaves. Regular bok choy have pearl white stalks and deep green leaves while Shanghai bok choy have greenish white stalks and paler green leaves. Shanghai bok choy will be smaller and more tender — perfect for the brief stir-frying called for in tumis sayur.
recipe adapted from James Oseland’s Cradle of Flavor
Stir-Fried Shanghai Bok Choy with Garlic and Chiles
makes 4 servings
Shanghai bok choy, approximately 8 heads (12 ounces / 340 grams)
3 tablespoons peanut oil
4 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1 to 2 fresh red chiles, or to taste
- As with any stir-fried recipe, prepare and portion all of the ingredients even before heating up the wok.
Prepare the ingredients for stir-frying. Trim the bottoms of the bok choy to separate the stalks. Discard the bottoms. In a large bowl filled with cold water, gently wash the bok choy in several changes of water until thoroughly cleaned. Sand and grit will settle in the bottom of the bowl.
Using a salad spinner or paper towels, dry the bok choy thoroughly.
Bruise the garlic cloves lightly and peel. Chop coarsely into 3 to 4 large chunks.
Stem the chiles and slice thinly on the diagonal.
Heat a wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the peanut oil and continue to heat until the oil is shimmering but not smoking. If the oil is smoking, remove from the heat briefly to cool. Add the garlic, chiles, and salt. Stir-fry vigorously for no more than a minute, ensuring that the garlic does not brown.
Add the Shanghai bok choy. Stir fry for 2 to 3 minutes, just until the leaves begin to wilt and the stalks are still firm and crisp. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Serve immediately in a wide platter, preferably in a single layer. This will keep the greens from overcooking and turning mushy on the plate.