Yu Choy with Garlic Sauce

Yu choy is a large leafy green vegetable with a tender stalk and a mild flavor that lies between asparagus and spinach. Here, it gets dressed in a savory mixture of oyster sauce, toasted sesame oil, and rice vinegar. Fresh garlic, ginger, and Fresno chile add a zesty bite to the nutty flavors in this yu choy recipe. 

When cooking yu choy, use tongs to hold it upright so the stems are immersed in the boiling water. This gives them a head start in the cooking process, allowing for the thin, delicate leaves to cook in less time for a perfect bite. 

Frequently Asked Questions
What is yu choy?
Yu choy, also known as choy sum or you cai, is a leafy green vegetable with long, tender stalks. A member of the brassica family (which also includes bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens, kale, and napa cabbage), yu choy features oval-shaped leaves that vary in tones from bright green to a dark verdant hue. They are available throughout the year, but peak season runs from spring through the autumn. 

A versatile vegetable, yu choy lends itself to a variety of cooking techniques beyond blanching and sautéeing, including steaming and stir-frying. Its small, bright yellow flowers are also prized for their sweet taste. Yu choy is often on dim sum menus and pairs well with hearty proteins such as pork and poultry. 

What is blanching?
Blanching is the process of momentarily immersing vegetables in boiling water and quickly plunging them into very cold water to halt the cooking process. This prevents any enzymatic reactions that lead to a loss of texture, flavor, and color in vegetables, and it’s why blanching is a crucial preliminary step prior to freezing them.

Notes from the Food & Wine Test Kitchen
“Yu choy is crisp and tender,” says Food & Wine test cook Jasmine Smith. “The savory and silky oyster sauce pairs well with the slightly nutty flavor of sesame oil. The fruity Fresno chile makes it bright and so flavorful, the ginger makes it zingy, and the garlic takes it over the top. This is a well-balanced dish, with each element playing well with each other.”
2 quarts water

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 pound yu choy, stems trimmed, keeping clusters intact

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon peanut oil

4 large garlic cloves, minced (about 4 teaspoons)

1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

1 red Fresno chile, seeded and minced (about 1 tablespoon)

Cooked white rice, for serving (optional)

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Bring 2 quarts water and salt to a boil in a large pot over high. Prepare a large bowl of ice and water. Using tongs, hold yu choy upright so stems are submerged in boiling water and leaves are above water, and cook until stems are vibrant green, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Submerge yu choy fully (including leaves), and cook until leaves turn bright green and stems are crisp-tender, 20 to 30 seconds. Drain yu choy; immediately place in ice bath. Let stand until cool, about 2 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

Whisk together oyster sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar in a small bowl. Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high. Add peanut oil; swirl pan to coat. Add garlic, ginger, and chile; cook, stirring often, until ginger is lightly browned and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add yu choy and oyster sauce mixture; cook, tossing often, until yu choy is thoroughly heated and coated in sauce, 1 to 2 minutes.
Arrange yu choy on a platter; drizzle remaining sauce evenly over top. Serve with rice, if desired.
Originally appeared in Food & Wine magazine, April 2024

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