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Fruit, Vegetables and Gourds
Cheung Choi
Cheung Choi is probably the leaf most widely used in Mainland Cantonese cookery. It is a quick growing leaf that is very easy to cultivate, and as such can be found in virtually every wet market or supermarket. It features large oval leaves and small yellow flowers. It is part of the mustard family Brassica rapa subsp. parachinensis, which is also known as Choi Sum. However, Choi Sum refers to many slightly different types of virtually identical looking plants - so know that Cheung Choi is completely light green, except for the yellow flowers with some types having white stems. Cantonese would never refer to Cheung Choi as Choi Sum.

They 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.

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.

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: Cheung Choi - Click to Enlarge

Recipe 1

Cheung Choi 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! I personally like to use a lot more water so the result is leaves in a pea-green coloured soup. This is totally delicious! For a thick and healthy soup simply pop into the blender, removing when only a few shreds of small green leaves are left.

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

Recipe 2

This is similar to above, but with a fuller flavour. Smash a Chinese garlic and add it to a hot wok containing a teaspoonful of oil. Fry for 1 minute before adding half a pint of water. Bring to the boil and add the leaves. Stir and cover with the lid. Steam for a couple of minutes and remove the lid. Add a teaspoon of salt and stir well in. Add a teaspoon of chicken bouillon and stir well in. Add more water to your preference. Cook for a further minute, stir and add to a serving bowl with all the juice.

Recipe 3

The common alternative is to steam the leaves with a lot of garlic. 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. Steaming leads to a more intense and slighter stronger and more bitter taste.

Recipe 4

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. 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.

Related Pages:
Ba Choi
Choi Sum
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