how to prepare Chinese vegetable e.g. 'Choi Sum'

To my surprise, my steam fish recipe has become the most popular post for over 2 weeks. The hit rate is way ahead (> x2)  than my 2nd top post.

This is very encouraging and pleasing indeed, it shows a lot of people are interested in chinese cooking. I have an impression that in Europe, e.g. Switzerland, among different Asian cuisines, Japanese and Thai food have become more and more popular but not really Chinese food.

This time I want to introduce some basics, a lot of you may have come across a lot of different chinese vegetables in the Chinese groceries but feel hesistant to buy because you have no clue how to prepare and cook them.
Choi Sum is one of the Chinese vegetables we eat very often in South of China.

Here is how Choi Sum would look like: those grown in Europe (Fig. 1a), the ones grown in China are much shorter (Fig. 2b) and sometimes you will see some yellow flowers on it (we do not eat the flowers, so pick them out).

Fig. 1 Choi Sum bought in Europe
Fig. 1a Choi Sum grown in Europe
Fig. 1b How Chow Sum looks like for those grown in China
Fig. 1b Chow Sum directly imported from China (bought in Nieuwmarkt, Amsterdam)

This is how we prepare it at home before cooking :

  1. Half fill the kitchen sink with cold water
  2. Using your hand but not a knife, break the choi sum into pieces of about 7cm or 3 inches each and soak in the water (Fig.2) for 20mins or so  (I was taught that it does not taste as good if you cut into pieces using knife, I suppose this is mainly due to our tradition)
  3. Put your hand in the water and grab a small portion and give a few stir (circular movements)  in the water to remove any soil or insects. Pay more attention on the root ends that there is no soil stick to them.
  4. Repeat Step 3 if the vegetables is rather soiled.
  5. Drain the washed vegetable in a colander or sieve.
  6. You can now cook the vegetable, for example stir-fried with meat or simply boil them in a pan for 5 mins and add some soy sauce and oyster sauce on top (Fig. 3).

Note. At home, I always just boil the vegetables (even eat without sauces) for weight mangement purpose as Choi Sum contains a lot of fibre and my other dishes would contain oil already. It may not be the most tasty recipe but certainly the best method to keep fit.


Fig. 2 Choi Sum in pieces soaked in water
Fig. 2 Choi Sum in pieces soaked in water


Fig. 3 Boiled Choi Sum with Oyster Sauce
Fig. 3 Boiled Choi Sum with Oyster Sauce

The same method also applies to Pak Choi, a Chinese vegetable which is probably more familar to you.


9 thoughts on “how to prepare Chinese vegetable e.g. 'Choi Sum'

  1. Adding a little oil to the water for boiling makes the vegetables much more palatable, but I guess if you’re concerned about your calorific intake then hm…

    You are right, that’s my way of diet, it is very helpful after some heavy meals, I used as part of my detox diet after festive seasons.

  2. Very good enjoyed.Go,s well with Salmon & Potatoe patties.

    If the potatoes are just mashed with out milk/cream or butter the the oil drizzled over the Choy Sum is not a worry.

  3. Thanks for the how-to tips on Choi Sum…I came across Choi Sum while eating out here in Hong Kong…next day I went to the supermarket and bought a pack….I just used your instructions to make it at home :)…It was a nice side-dish to filet mignon with some Worcestershire sauce.

  4. Found it prewashed in the supermarket, fantastic in an indonesian noodle soup (which you can buy very cheaply in a freeze dried packet-worlds away from regular instant noodles) makes a great filling healthy meal and you can add little bits of meat if you want or even egg, love it! Just wish they would stock water mimosa and morning glory in the uk

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