Wok Hei Bok Choy with Sherry-Ginger Broth

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The Wok Hei technique, which is cooking greens at a very high heat so it scorches but cooks internally and stays green, is a pretty difficult technique. The idea is to cook at the highest heat possible, so J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of SeriousEats.com recommends using a grill and a wolid metal wok (and lots of heat protection). Some cooks manage the technique at a lower temperature, but so far we've only managed to do it on a really hot, high heat, high BTU stove (ours is 15,000 BTU). There is a new product, almost on the market (as of 2/2016) called the WokMon which aims to make conventional gas burners more suited for wok cooking, but concentrating the flame into a single cone of flame hitting the center of the bottom of the wok instead of a ring around the side, as with most conventional stove burners in the US. We're looking forward to trying it.

Also note that Wok Hei's difficult to do right all the time. If you swing and miss, don't be discouraged. Just try again. The texture is kind of crisp, moist and shattering, when served warm.

This recipe aims to use Wok Hei for the greens and then using traditional methods to make a small amount of highly seasoned broth to pour over the top of the veggies.

Ingredients:

  • 6 - 10 stalks of baby bok choy, sliced the long way into chunks roughly 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch square in cross section OR single stalks of non-baby bok choy, trimmed and cut to 3 - 4 inch lengths.
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 1/2 t sesame oil
  • Small amount of sliced onion or green onion (green part), in big chunk(s)
  • 1 - 2 inches ginger, trimmed and matchstick sliced, the long way
  • 1/4 - 1/2 medium shallot, diced
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup broth (from home reduction or boullion or whatever, chicken, pork, shrimp, even beef, but beware they can change the overall flavor profile)
  • 1 T sherry
  • salt

Equipment:

  • Wok/wok ring OR cast iron pan
  • Wok spatula or normal spatula for cast iron pan

Method:

  1. On highest heat, pour 2 T oil and 1/2 t sesame oil into the wok. Let come to smoking temperature. Stir fry onion/green onion, ginger matchsticks, and some salt in oil for up to a minute to flavor the oil, then remove the onion and ginger and discard them.
  2. Lay bok choi slices on the surface of the wok, in one layer, cut sides down and let sit to sear 30 seconds to a minute or more, depending on wok heat level. If you can't do all of the bok choy in one layer, cook in batches. It's okay if the second batch doesn't have much oil to work with and it needn't be seasoned. You have to get a sense of this, but you're looking for scorching on the corners. Toss and let sear again. Cook no longer than the greens going bright green. Remove the bok choy from the wok and put in serving vessel (shallow or wide bowl).
  3. With heat medium to high, pour broth into wok and let come up to a simmer. Add sherry, shallot and ginger, and simmer. Taste for seasoning. You're looking for highly seasoned and slightly salty, so add salt, possibly add water or reduce. Your end product should be salty, flavorful and slightly concentrated.
  4. When the broth is where you want it, ladle over the reserved bok choy and serve.

Eating notes:

  • Biggish chunks of bok choy and baby bok choy are properly eaten from the root side, not the sprout side. Westerners find this a little gauche, but if you bite the stem end you get yummy bok choy AND it separates the stalks that don't fit in your mouth from the rest of the bite. Obviously, if you do it this way, eat over a plate!