My sister-in-law Alison is a gifted pastry chef, who happens to do a bang up job with savory food as well. A couple of years ago she was over one night and whipped up a side dish of baby bok choy that my kids inhaled as if it were one of her delicate layer cakes. I’ve been knocking it off ever since.
In our house, we call it Brown Sugar Baby Bok Choy. It’s a quick, stir-fried dish seasoned with garlic, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and, of course, brown sugar. Last night, I took it a step further and turned this side dish into a main. It was on the table in a flash so I figured it was worth sharing for our “15 Minute Fix” series: Dinners that can be cooked, start to finish, in 15 minutes or less.
If you are unfamiliar with bok choy, it is a member of the Chinese cabbage family and looks like this:
Some folks are a little intimidated by less-than-familiar Asian vegetables (burdock root, anyone?). Bok choy is the perfect place to start exploring. It’s tender, mild, and lacks the bitterness common in a lot of leafy greens. It’s also super nutritious, with high doses of Vitamin A, C and K.
The little bit of ground pork in the dish lends richness, texture and flavor, without a lot of saturated fat. And the protein-packed tofu is the key to elevating this to a main course. It also makes prep time go quick, since tofu needs only to be warmed, not cooked through. Consider opting for organic or GMO-free brands since most tofu is made with genetically modified soy beans from giant factory farms.
I know a lot of kids (and grown ups) aren’t particularly enthusiastic about tofu, my husband being one of them. If given the choice, my crew would vote for chicken over tofu any day. But in this dish, the flavors of garlic, brown sugar and soy sauce take center stage and the tofu soaks up all the savory deliciousness. Last night nobody said a word about the tofu, other than, “is this tofu?”
BROWN SUGAR BABY BOK CHOY WITH PORK AND TOFU
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- ¼ pound ground pork
- 2 bunches baby bok choy
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon seasoned rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 to 2 pinches red pepper flakes
- 12 ounces firm tofu
- Cooked brown rice*
Set a large sauté pan or wok over medium heat. While the pan heats up, peel and chop the garlic. Drizzle the sesame oil in the pan and add the garlic. Saute for a minute, without letting it burn. Add the pork and cook, stirring as needed, until cooked through.
While the pork cooks, roughly chop the bok choy, being sure to remove the little wedge of core at the bottom. Put in a colander and rinse thoroughly. Give the colander a good shake to remove excess water.
Add the chopped bok choy to the pork and stir. Drizzle in the soy sauce, vinegar and brown sugar and continue to stir fry until the bok choy leaves are wilted, and the stems are tender, but not mushy. This is will happen in just a few minutes.
Cut the tofu into small cubes and add it to the pan along with the red pepper flakes. Stir gently just until the tofu is heated through. Remove from heat and serve with cooked brown rice.
Makes 2 to 3 main dish servings
*About the rice: Yes, rice, especially brown rice, takes longer than 15 minutes to cook. So, here are a few options to keep mealtime prep to a minimum:
- Make your rice in the morning, letting it bubble away as you pack school lunches and dole out breakfast. Then, reheat it just before dinner.
- Buy pre-cooked frozen brown rice sold at Trader Joe’s. I haven’t tried this myself, but know moms who swear by it.
- Use a rice cooker so that you have rice at the ready when you come home.
- Pick up a container of rice at your most convenient Asian eatery.
Options: If tofu isn’t your thing, you can use 12 ounces of skinless, boneless chicken cut into cubes. Cook it when you cook the pork, though you may need a little more oil to keep it from sticking. You can also leave the pork and tofu out altogether and serve this as a side dish.