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Choi Sum
Choi Sum is part of the mustard family Brassica rapa subsp. parachinensis, which is known by many different names and can refer to many slightly different types of virtually identical looking plants. These can also include Ba Choi and Cheung Choi, although no native Cantonese would ever muddle these names. Choi sum can be distinguished by its small yellow flowerheads and bright green oval leaves. It is one of the most commonly cultivated plants in Asia and is grown under a wide range of different climates and soil types.
Sum Choi refers to organically grown Choi Sum.

Other Names:
Tsoi sum (Hong Kong Chinese) and cai xin (Mandarin Chinese), cai ngot (Vietnamese), pakauyai or pakaukeo (Thai), saishin (Japanese), Chinese soup green, white flowering cabbage, mosk pak choy (English), Yau Choy, Yu Cai (Yeou Tsai), Chinese flowering cabbage oil greens, Yu Toy, and False Pak Choi.

We have used the spelling 'choi' because in Cantonese the last letter is a rising sound, whereas 'choy' would indicate a flat sound, which is not correct.

Also know that the very similar Cheung Choi is completely light green, except for the yellow flowers. Cantonese would never refer to Cheung Choi as Choi Sum!

Leaves are sold in clumps by weight, and comprise small plants that have perhaps eight or ten leaves in each. They are usually picked just above the root and sold the same day. Chinese at home have no problem cooking leaves that have holes in them, and this goes to show they are fresh and have not been subject to pesticides or other nefarious sprays (Sum Choi).

Buyer Tip

When purchasing look at the end of the stems where they were broken off. There is usually a small white or lighter coloured centre. Buy those with no discernable colour change, or the least amount of light colouration.

Many Chinese prefer to buy these when they have a lot of yellow flowers on them, and have perhaps got slightly 'leggy'. The flowers are edible and very tasty, and are never removed. Smaller plants are considered to be more tender and succulent.

Prepare the leaves simply by washing under running water, break off the bottom inch or so, and remove any unsightly leaves. Keep the yellow flowers if present, as these are delicious also.

Cooking is very simple, with the leaves being covered with water and brought to the boil. They are then simmered for 5 minutes or less.

Image: Choi Sum - Click to Enlarge

Recipe 1

Choi Sum is usually covered with water and left to simmer for a few minutes, and no longer than 5 minutes. Apart from water you can also add a clove of garlic, and that is all - not even salt or pepper!

As with Cheung Choi and Ba Choi you can add extra water to make a soup. However, this tends to be quite a bit stronger than these others, so we do not recommend doing this unless you also add: quite a lot of garlic and fresh chopped ginger strips + salt and pepper to taste.

Never overcook the leaves, as British chef's tend to prefer. They are meant to be edible and not a green mush.

Recipe 2

The common alternative is to steam the leaves with a lot of garlic and or fresh ginger strips. This is done by using a wok as a steamer, and placing a dish such as small bowl or soup dish on a rack. Add water to the wok and bring to the boil. Add the leaves and cover for 5 minutes. There will be a little juice when cooked, which blends beautifully with the garlic and ginger. Steaming leads to a more intense and stronger flavour with more bitter taste.

Recipe 3

This is as recipe 2 above, but after cooking you flash fry the leaves for a few seconds only, tossing continuously. Alternatively you can stir fry them for a minute or so. This gives them a shinny look and makes them slippery to pick up using chop sticks. You need as little as five seconds frying, and ensure all excess oil is allowed to drain away before serving. In this case they would be presented to table without any juice, and normally laid out in line on a platter. This style is usually reserved for Choi Sum that quite resembles small English purple flowering broccoli, before the flower pods open.

Related Pages:
Ba Choi
Cheung Choi

  This information is as supplied by ourselves, and ably supported by our friends and various internet portals.
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