Bursting with the flavours of soy, chilli and garlic glaze, this Griddled Pak Choi Side Dish is a wonderful addition to a Chinese, Japanese and Korean main course! So if you are looking for a tasty sidekick to an Asian-style crispy chicken, sticky tofu or glazed fish, this pak choi recipe has your name written all over it! 6 ingredients, 15 minutes and you have a side that is exciting in both the flavours and the textures!
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But What Is Pak Choi (Bok Choy)?
Pak choi is not the only name this vegetable goes by. If you heard of bok choy or horse’s ear, it’s the same vegetable! It is sometimes referred to as Chinese celery cabbage or even white mustard cabbage.
Whichever name you prefer, pak choi is a member of the cabbage family, but it looks a lot like a cross between celery and spinach. Regular Bok Choy is one of the most essential ingredients in Chinese cooking but is widely used across the globe.
What Does Pak Choi Taste Like? What Does It Go Well With?
Pak choi (also spelt pak choy, bok choi or bok choy) comes from a cabbage family, so it is no surprise that it tastes like very mild cabbage. Some say that it is a cross between spinach and cabbage, but I would say it tastes more like spinach and bean sprout stir fry.
Pak Choi is not the most flavoursome vegetable out there. That’s why it is always a good idea to add lots of flavour in the form of sauce, marinade or glaze. What pak choi can offer, though, is tons of crunchy texture! This makes it an easy vegetable to cook and pair with. Our Garlic Pak Choi makes a great accompaniment to Crispy Honey Chicken, teriyaki salmon, Crispy Chilli Beef, Tofu Sushi (recipe coming soon) and other Asian-style mains!
The Best Way To Cook Pak Choi
Cooking pak choi is never boring, as you can use various different method, and add new flavours every time. Pur favorite ways are to:
- Grill/ Griddle. Just like in this recipe, otherwise mild-tasting pak choi benefits from the extra flavour of charring on a hot griddle pan/ grill. Cut the pak choi in half lengthways (or slice in quarters lengthways). Grill it for 4-6 minutes on each side, depending on the size of your vegetable. This cooking method makes the best crunchiest version of pak choi, in our opinion.
- Stir-fry. Chop your pak choi into bite-size pieces and keep the white part and leafy greens separately. Stir fry the stalks on high heat with your chosen extras (like garlic, ginger, chilli or stir-fry sauce) for 2-3 minutes. Then add the dark green leaves and continue cooking for another 30 seconds.
- Steam. If you’re looking for a mild-tasting pak choi side dish, you can steam it. Separate the leaves and steam for a couple of minutes to soften for an easy side dish.
- Eat Raw. Young pak choi (a.k.a. baby pak choi) can be used in salads or relishes raw. It’s a delicious way to add extra crunch to your salad.
Ingredients and Substitutes
Only 6 ingredients are needed for this extremely flavoursome pak choi recipe. And I bet you, you will find half of them in your cupboards already. Here’s what you’ll need:
- toasted sesame oil: a little oil goes a long way. Toasted sesame oil is one of the strongest-tasting ingredients, so use it carefully. You will only need 1 teaspoon of it for 2 heads of pak choi.
- garlic clove: peeled, minced or very finely chopped.
- chilli flakes (red pepper flakes): adjust the spice level by adding more or less chilli.
- soy sauce: you can use dark or light soy sauce in this recipe. For a gluten-free option, choose Tamari.
- caster sugar: can be replaced with brown sugar, half a teaspoon of honey, maple syrup or agave nectar.
- pak choi: the star of the show. There are a few different varieties of this nutritious vegetable and they can come in different shapes and sizes. We used a typical European-grown pak choi that you can get at most larger supermarkets in the UK.
- sesame seeds: to garnish.
In a small bowl, combine sesame oil, minced garlic, chilli flakes, soy sauce and caster sugar.
Brush a griddle pan with oil using a pastry brush. Heat it on medium-high heat.
Brush the pak choi halves (cut side) with the soy glaze and add them to the hot griddle pan cut side down. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then brush the tops with the remaining glaze and them over. Carry on cooking for another 3-4 minutes. You can also cook the pak choi on an outdoor grill or simply in a large frying pan.
Your pak choi should have visible charred lines and softened tops, but still have plenty of crunch at the base. Squeeze some fresh lime juice over the top if you wish, place the Asian greens on a serving plate and serve warm with your favourite main dish!
Our method is specifically designed to keep the leaves of pak choi crunchy at the base. That’s how we like to eat it. However, it should not be tough or difficult to bite into. The reason for hard pak choi may be the size of your vegetable. You may need to increase the cooking time (just watch that it doesn’t burn). Alternatively, some recipes call for pak choi to be blanched first to soften the leaves. If you enjoy softer, less crunchy veggies, try this blanching method here.
Sugar (or honey/ maple syrup) is added to the glaze for two main reasons. First, it is very typical of Chinese cuisine to add a bit of sweetness to savoury dishes. Secondly, sugar in the glaze helps the browning and charring process, making the dish more appealing.
Full of flavour, this Grilled Pak Choi Side Dish makes a perfect accompaniment to both strong-tasting dishes and milder-tasting mains, that can use an exhilarating sidekick to liven it up. We love serving Griddled Pak Choi with:
- Teriyaki Salmon (recipe coming soon)
- Tofu and Pineapple Skewers
- Crispy Chilli Beef
- Kung Pao Tofu (Vegan)
Other Asian-Style Side Dishes
If you are looking for more ideas of side dishes that go well with Asian-style dishes, we have a few recipes that may tempt you. Why not try:
Grilled Pak Choi Side Dish
- Griddle Pan or grill
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 garlic clove peeled and minced
- ¼ teaspoon chilli flakes
- 3 teaspoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon caster sugar
- 2 pak choi cut in half or quarters lengthways
- 1 teaspoon oil for brushing the pan
- In a small bowl, combine sesame oil, minced garlic, chilli flakes, soy sauce and caster sugar.
- Brush a griddle pan with oil using a pastry brush. Heat it on medium-high heat.
- Brush the pak choi halves (cut side) with the soy glaze and add them to the hot griddle pan cut side down. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then brush the tops with the remaining glaze and them over. Carry on cooking for another 3-4 minutes.
- Your pak choi should have visible charred lines and softened tops, but still have plenty of crunch at the base. Serve warm with your favourite dishes!