Friday, 22 October 2010

Choy Sum (Chinese Flowering Cabbage) with Garlic Oil and Oyster Sauce

Healthy instant fast-food: that's what this is.

So simple and quick that I think it barely qualifies as a recipe, this classic Chinese method of preparing leafy greens not only takes all of two minutes (20 seconds if you already have garlic oil on hand!) but provides pure unadulterated deliciousness in a prettily-coloured package bursting with nutrition, all with only three ingredients. Here, less is really much more :)

To non-Chinese speakers, choy sum is also known as "Chinese flowering cabbage" and typically features crunchy green stalks, thick green leaves and little yellow flowers. You may freely use pak choi/bok choy (similar to choy sum but with fatter whiter stalks), kai lan (Chinese broccoli/kale with thicker stems) or any other variety of leafy Chinese greens if preferred. My little Paint image below might help you distinguish them better than I can explain (pictures compiled from Google-no copyright infringement intended, sorry if they belong to anyone!):

Come to think of it, garlic oil and oyster sauce taste good on most vegetables so I wouldn't hesitate to drizzle them on Western broccoli or beans too. Who says instant meals can't be good for you!

Choy Sum with Garlic Oil & Oyster Sauce
Serves... well, about 2 I think? Quantities provided totally not set in stone :)

Finely mince 2 cloves garlic and stir-fry over medium heat in about 1 tbsp oil until golden brown and crisp. Dish out and set aside.

*If desired you can make a huge batch of this at one go, and store in a jar for future use. It's fragrant and so delicious as a simple drizzle on vegetables!

Trim the stems of 3-4 large bunches of choy sum, slice into two (for easier eating) and wash thoroughly. Bring a pot of water to boil and chuck your vegetables in to blanch for about 20 seconds (not minutes)- DO NOT OVERCOOK! The leaves should only be wilted ever so slightly, with their strong bright green hue still intact.

Drain completely, arrange on a plate and drizzle with oyster sauce (if you're vegetarian, you can find varieties made with mushroom extract) and garlic oil.

TA-DAA, DONE! :) Serve immediately with hot steamed rice.

*If preferred, feel free to steam for a few minutes instead of blanching- it takes a tad longer but preserves even more nutrients.


  1. Hi, my old mother taught me to add a drizzle of cooking oil in the boiling water before dunking in the veg to blanche. The veg comes out with a lovely sheen and retains its bright green color. Try it.

  2. Beautiful photos, beautiful dish!

  3. Thanks Mama Khaw and homeladychef!:)

  4. Bump into your food blog, what a lovely vege! I loves greens... oil and salt to blanch any vegetables to remain the nutrients... Is it a myth since it was pass down from my granny! Haha... But I just follow since Chinese always love keeping the tradition from generation to generation no matter where it goes...

  5. but oyster sauce is not vegetarian, no?

    1. Haha you're absolutely right Julia, my mistake! Have edited the recipe to mention vegetarian oyster sauce (which is made from oyster mushrooms). Thanks for pointing it out!