02 December 2013

Shanghai choy and shrimp

When we went to the Asian supermarket called Paris Store over in Tours Friday morning, one of the things we wanted to buy was a bag of big frozen tiger prawns, also called Asian tiger shrimp. We try to keep a bag of them in the freezer at all times, but we were out. I believe these shrimp are farm-raised. Paris Store is a chain of Asian markets based in... Paris.

We grabbed a few other items off the shelves — sesame seeds, hon mirin, teriyaki sauce, a jar of grated ginger — and were headed toward the checkout stand when I noticed the produce section. On an impluse, I picked up a bag of what was labeled as shanghaï choï, just because it looked so fresh and appetizing. There were six heads of choy in the bag. (I have a garden full of collard greens and kale ready to be harvested, but never mind...)

Braised Shanghai choy with a hoisin-based sauce

At the checkout stand, I asked the cashier if this was the same thing as bok choy. She said no, it's Shanghai choy, and it's not as green or as large as bok choy. Then she shrugged her shoulders and said, « Enfin, c'est à peu près la même chose. » I was just curious because I'd never heard the term Shanghai choy before. I'm not even sure I'd ever cooked bok choy before.

Sliced Shanghai choy

When I got home, I thought about the possibility of combining some choy and some shrimp to make a stir-fry. I found some recipes for such a dish on the internet. (On trouve tout sur le 'net.) What I found of most interest was that the way to cook Shanghai choy is just to braise it very briefly in simmering water.

Stir-fried shrimp, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, and garlic in the same sauce

One recipe I found for a dish called Hoisin Chicken called for making a sauce using hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper, and cornstarch. That sounded like it would be good with both the braised choy and some shrimp stir-fried with vegetables.

This is what is called la mise en place — everything is prepared and ready to be cooked.

Here's the recipe I came up with. Most of the quantities are very flexible. You could make it with broccoli, for example. It might seem complicated, but if you cook the choy and the rice while the shrimp are marinating, and then make the sauce, all you really have left to do is the stir-frying.

Hoisin shrimp with Shanghai choy

1 medium onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
6 large mushrooms, sliced
3 heads of Shanghai choy
18 large tiger prawns, peeled and de-veined
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds as a garnish

1 Tbsp. grated ginger
2 Tbsp. white wine
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 pinches of black, white, or cayenne pepper
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. corn or potato starch
¼ cup water
Marinate the shrimp in the wine, vinegar, and ginger for 15 minutes or longer. Meanwhile, stir-fry the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and mushrooms in a wok or skillet.When they are just slightly cooked but still crisp, take them out of the pan and set them aside.

Cut each head of choy into two or four pieces, from the root end to the leafy top. Braise the choy slices for no more than three minutes in just enough simmering water to cover them. When they're done, take them out of the pan and keep them warm. (I put them in a dish in the microwave oven so I could re-heat them briefly if necessary.)

Make the sauce by combining all the ingredients. Mix well and set aside. Take the shrimp out of the marinade and stir-fry them briefly in the wok or skillet, just until they turn pink. As soon as they are done, take them out of the pan and put them aside with the stir-fried vegetables.
Put the sauce mixture into the pan and bring it to a boil so that it will reduce a little and thicken. Add more water as necessary. Also add in the shrimp marinade. When the sauce has a nice syrupy consistency, spoon some of it over the braised choy in one dish, and then toss all the stir-fried ingredients briefly in what's left in the pan. When everything is hot, sprinkle on toasted sesame seeds and serve with steamed rice or Asian noodles.


  1. I'm not sure if I've ever had either kind of choy, but we eat in a lot of Asian restaurants so I most likely have had one or both as some time.

  2. It is "Pak Choi" if you want to find the seed....
    and these are lovely chunky looking ones, too!
    Bok Choi is looser and greener further down the stalk... and often appears, now, in "mesclun" mixtures... it doesn't work!!
    But it is also often sold as "Pak Choi"... so you need to see how it is shown on the packet or web picture.

    Pak Choi is a good, quick return crop for Autumn planting... early September... and holds well until the frosts... longer if you fleece it. Needs plenty of water to get like these, tho'.

    The three you show are wonderful examples from a slug-free environment... the damn beasties seem to like them more than they do Hostas!! But if you grow organic, you expect holes.

    I like the way you've cooked these... but they do well in a late summer salad.
    You can also poach them gently for a couple of minutes and dress with a 50:50 mix of light Soy and toasted Sesame oil.
    I've used the base, sliced across, in soup on occasions... added late it gives a nice crunch.

  3. My standby recipe for pak choi is stir fried with strips of beef and oyster sauce. I've grown them here -- the flea beetles like them, so the effect is rather lacey. You have to sow them after the summer solstice or they will just go to seed.

  4. Oh, that looks soooooooo good!

  5. Ellen, I bet Tang Frères or Paris Store in the 13e would have Shanghaï choï, if nobody closer does. I think the the same recipe using broccoli florets would be good too.

    I saw on Wikipedia that in British English bok choy (Brassica rapa chinensis) is called pak choy, and it goes by various names in different parts of the English-speaking world. It is a variety of cabbage. I read on one site that the Shanghai variety is sweeter than other bok choys. Here's a Google search results page with a lot of sites and information. This page from a California farm is interesting.

  6. I knew you'd end up with a scrumptious Asian-inspired dish after a trip to Tours :)


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