In season mid-spring: Choy sum

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In season mid-spring: Choy sum

Choy sum (or flowering Chinese cabbage) has pale yellow flowers on slender green stems with long oval leaves. It is available year-round and it can also be grown successfully in home gardens.


Choose bright-green coloured bunches with firm, crisp clean stems with flowers on stems in bud or just open rather than in full bloom. Avoid bunches with wilted or yellowing leaves.


Refrigerate in a plastic bag or in the vegetable crisper compartment of the fridge. If the choy sum is fresh, wrapping the stems in a damp paper towel or newspaper before placing in a plastic bag will extend the keeping of them by several days.


Choy sum, like most Asian greens, are packed with nutrients. They are an excellent source of vitamin A and a good source of folate, iron and fibre.


Wash and trim the ends into 4-5cm lengths before cutting choy sum stems and leaves. Heat some vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok and add stems first, tossing to coat, until colour intensifies to a deep-green. Add leaves and splash over 1-2 tablespoons cold water, toss again and immediately cover to allow vegetables to steam. This takes two to three minutes for a small bunch. Remove lid and stir-fry briefly to make sure of even cooking. Asian greens respond well to a hot steamy environment, cooking quickly and retaining all their nutrients.

Choy sum is suitable for steaming and adding to stir-fries as well as a colourful last minute addition to Asian style broths. It’s popular in wonton soup or noodle dishes. The smaller inner leaves can be used raw in salads.

Blanch whole stems and leaves until tender in boiling water with 1 teaspoon vegetable oil added to keep the greens glossy. To serve choy sum Asian-style, remove from pan, drain well in a colander, and line stems and leaves up on a chopping board. Cut the greens in three even lengths and plate on a warmed dish. Drizzle with a little toasted sesame oil and oyster sauce for a simple accompaniment to rice and other dishes.

Try this great idea for using choy sum: Choy sum, chicken and prawn noodle soup

Did you know? Choy is the Chinese word for cabbage or vegetable. Choy sum literally means ‘cabbage hearts’. The alternative name ‘yau choy’ means oil cabbage which reflects the scientific name of Brassica rapa – the same family as rapeseed or canola.

First published: Oct 2012

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