Of all the new-to-me Asian vegetables I cooked last year, the only one that didn’t win me over was bok choy. I made it a bunch of different ways (steamed, sautéed, slowly fermented in the bottom of my crisper drawer), but it never took.
Recently, though, I overheard the Farmer say he likes bok choy. He called it “delicious.” That’s not the word I would have chosen. Watery and bland with a bitter edge—that’s how I would describe it. Like celery, but worse. Still, I thought, maybe I should give it another try. If anyone was going to get me to change my mind, it was the Farmer.
So at some point in the past week or two (hard to tell since I painted right over the calendar), I made a stir-fry. I used pork from Stillman’s Farm, and snap peas, bok choy, and komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach, which I LOVE) from Drumlin. I was hoping that mixing the bok choy in with other, better stuff might help. Also, in the past, I had always kept the bok choy leaves attached to the stalks, and I had a feeling that was what turned me off. Since the leaves and stems cook at different rates, I found myself having to guess at some kind of unhappy medium. This time, I separated the two parts and added them in at different times. I liked the results much better.
I started by heating some canola oil until quite hot. I added six or seven smashed garlic cloves until starting to brown, and then the pork, which was just 2 pork chops deboned and cut into ¼-inch-thick pieces. I stirred that around for a bit, then poured in 3 Tbsp. fish sauce, 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, and 1½ Tbsp. sugar, pre-mixed. Next, I added the bok choy stalks cut crosswise into boomerang- shaped pieces and the destrung snap peas. A minute or two stirring, then in went the bok choy leaves, komatsuna, and black pepper, tossed until the pork was cooked through.
The stalks stayed pleasantly crunchy while the leaves got all wilty. So clean and crisp, it was a really excellent stir-fry. How could I have been such a fool?
I always suspected that the Farmer knew his way around the kitchen, and now I’m convinced. He acts all modest, but if he can make bok choy taste good without even trying, well that’s really saying something. I have my work cut out for me if I want to get invited to dinner, though. We should probably get to know each other a little better first. As friends, I mean. Or, you know, whatever. Maybe someday when he doesn’t scare the living shit out of me.