ALL THE LEAVES ARE GREEN

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By Roberta Vitiello

What best way to create you own stir-fry with a selection of Asian Greens? This is the right season to stock up the flavourful vegetables as they are common in markets during April. But I find sometimes to be confusion around the wide selection of Asian Greens, and which one goes best in certain dishes.

Here a list of most common ones and how to use them:

Thai basil

With its narrow leaves, purplish stems and a slight aniseed taste, this is one of the identifying flavours of Thai food. You can try it with chicken, pork and seafood in stir-fries or curries.

Lemongrass

A tall, clumping tropical grass, only the lower white part of the stem is used, finely chopped, in teas, soup and curry. It also pairs well with poultry, fish, beef and seafood.

Chinese broccoli

Also called gai lan. It’s really simple to cook: blanch the leaves and stems in boiling water for a minute and stir-fry with oyster sauce or steam for a nice side dish.

Photo: Janes Fairytale

Baby pak choy

Identified by its greenish, spoon-shaped stems and soft texture, it’s excellent added to stir-fries, soups or steamed. The raw leaves can also be added to salads.

Bok choy (shanghai bok choy, baby bok choy, Chinese chard)

This is one of the most popular Chinese leafy greens and although the words bok choy mean ‘white vegetable’, it actually has dark green to pale green leaves. Bok choy is very versatile and needs only light cooking, making it perfect for steaming or stir-frying. Look for unblemished leaves and firm stalks and keep stored in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper section of your fridge for best results.

Water spinach

Sometimes called kang kong, it’s eaten raw in salads in Vietnam. It’s also great stir-fried and goes particularly well with chilli. Cook the stems first because they take a little longer than the leaves.

Chinese cabbage (peking cabbage, napa cabbage, wombok)

This elongated cabbage has less bite and a slightly sweeter taste than regular cabbage, making it perfect in salads and coleslaws. It’s also used shredded in stir-fries and soups, and the larger leaves serve as an ideal casing for meat fillings. When buying, choose firm, heavy heads with unblemished, crisp leaves.

Asian greens are highly nutritious with most containing useful amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A and fibre. They are a good source of phytochemicals, including flavonoids and carotenoids, and those in the brassica family also contain beneficial sulphur compounds. The darker the colour, the higher the antioxidant levels. Enjoy it while in season!

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