Pork and salted bok choy with cold noodles

Today is Saturday, the last day before we get the next giant box of vegetables.

We’ve been pretty clever with this week’s haul. We made the Tuscan kale with gnocchi, walnuts and crispy fried salami. Roasted the beets. Cubed and oven roasted the potatoes, which we added to potato-zucchini-leek soup. Beet greens and Swiss chard got baked with beef shanks and quinoa. These were all very nice. We also made zucchini into a hell of a lot of zucchini bread, which for some reason we thought would try with gluten-free flour. It… was not a success… (the squirrels loved it)

Yes, it’s all been lovely, but it’s Saturday, and what the hell are we going to do with all of this bok choy?

We looked everywhere – and every recipe was some variation on “stir fry,” which unless you are in a proper Chinese kitchen, just does not work.  Also, bok choy is mostly water, which means that no matter how you fry it, it’s gonna be soupy and gross.

Today we had a revelation. Don’t fry the water out – salt it. We did this last week when we made gyōza – chop the bok choy super fine, toss in salt and let it drain a few hours in a colander. By the way, here’s our gyōza…

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My plan was to make something akin to xue cai, which is salted mustard greens. I chopped the two giant heads of bok choy into roughly one inch pieces, and dunked them in salted water for about two hours. For that much bok choy, I used about 1/4 cup of salt, but you should add salt to taste, aiming for the level of a too-salty soup stock. After about one hour, I added about 1/2 pound of sliced pork, which is always good to brine before cooking, and let the two get to know each other for an hour or so.

We decided to have this with thin noodles called sōmen, and wanted then cold, so cooked the noodles and let them sit in cold water while we finished the dish.

Preparation was easy. Take out the meat and drain the bok choy. Give the vegetables a rinse if they are too salty. Toss in a little corn starch and set aside. Dry the pork and lightly fry it with plenty of oil and a little grated ginger and white pepper. Once the meat is cooked, add the chopped bok choy and cook on medium heat for another three minutes or so, just until everything is blended and any remaining water has come out of the vegetables. Just before serving, add sesame oil and sprinkle on sesame seeds, and place in top of cool sōmen in a bowl.

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You won’t need to add salt, or any other flavoring, and the surprise was how nicely the marinating added the very slightly spicy taste of the bok choy to the meat. You could also add other ingredients, such as edamame, to the dish, but don’t go overboard. The attraction here is the simplicity of flavors.