Pak Choi



Pak choi (Brasica rapa var chinensis) is a leafy vegetable that originated from south China.1 It is appreciated for its versatility as the whole plant is edible and can be cooked in many ways.2  

Origins 
Records of the cultivation of pak choi in south China date as far back as the 5th century AD.3 It has since spread throughout China and to other parts of Asia, where it has been widely grown in Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, as well as the Philippines, and can also be found in Europe and America.

With the movement of the Chinese diaspora, pak choi plantations were found in Japan and Malaya by the early 19th century.5 Pak choi was introduced to Europe by the mid-18th century.6 In 1751, Osbeck, a friend of the famed Swede, Linnaeus, brought seeds of the vegetable to Europe just as Jesuit missionaries handed similar strains to German scientists working in Russia.7In Malaya, the vegetable was priced beyond the reach of the poor.8 It was commonly grown by the Chinese using seeds imported from Canton.9 The fresh vegetables were offered for sale in the markets at dawn and what was left unsold by the afternoon would be pickled in brine, thus preserving the pak choi for up to 10 months.10  

As it is easily crossbred, there are many pak choi strains and today there is a wide variety of pak choi in variant shapes, sizes and shades of green.11 

Description
Although lettuce-like in appearance, the pak choi is related to the family Brassicaceae, to which vegetables such as cabbage, mustard greens, cauliflower, broccoli, water cress and radish belong.12 This biennial is known for the juicy, crisp texture of its leaf stalks and the sweetness of its flowering shoots.13 Its white stalks join green leaves that are broad and spoon-shaped.14 It has shallow roots and grows quickly.15  

Uses
The vegetable is prepared by first cutting the leaves at the central stem. Young stalks are preferred as they are tenderer. Pak choi is best used fresh and is often stir-fried or braised.16 Its leaves are sometimes preserved by salting or are dried to be used in soups.17Dried pak choi leaves were used in French Indochina and served as a drink to stave off the effects of dysentery.18 Pak choi seeds were crushed to release its oils, a highly valued “colza” oil.19  

Variant names
Scientific name: Brasica rapa var chinensis.20
English names: Chinese celery cabbage, Chinese white cabbage, mustard cabbage.21
Malay name: Sawi putih.22
Mandarin names: Bai cai (white vegetable); qing cai (green vegetable); xiao bai cai (little white cabbage); pe-tsai.23
Cantonese names: Pak choibok choy.24
Japanese name: Chingensai 25
Tagalog name: Pechay26



References
1.
Larkcom, J. (2007). Oriental vegetables: The complete guide for the gardening cook. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, p. 25. (Call no.: R 635.04 LAR)
2.
Larkcom, J. (2007). Oriental vegetables: The complete guide for the gardening cook. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, pp. 25‒26. (Call no.: R 635.04 LAR)
3.
Larkcom, J. (2007). Oriental vegetables: The complete guide for the gardening cook. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, p. 25. (Call no.: R 635.04 LAR)
4.
Larkcom, J. (2007). Oriental vegetables: The complete guide for the gardening cook. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, p. 25. (Call no.: R 635.04 LAR); Tindall, H. D. (1983) Vegetables in the tropics. London: Macmillan Press, p. 111. (Call no.: R 635.0913 TIN; Kok, P-T. et al. (2012) A guide to common vegetables. Singapore: Singapore Science Centre, p. 37. (Call no.: RSING 635 KOK).
5.
Burkill, I. H. (2002). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1, (A-H)). Malaysia: Ministry of Agriculture, p. 363. Call no.: (RSING 634.9095951 BUR)
6.
Burkill, I. H. (2002). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1, (A-H)). Malaysia: Ministry of Agriculture, pp. 363‒364. (Call no.: RSING 634.9095951 BUR)
7.
Burkill, I. H. (2002). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1, (A-H)). Malaysia: Ministry of Agriculture, pp. 363‒364. (Call no.: RSING 634.9095951 BUR)
8.
Burkill, I. H. (2002). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1, (A-H)). Malaysia: Ministry of Agriculture, p. 364. (Call no.: RSING 634.9095951 BUR)
9.
Burkill, I. H. (2002). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1, (A-H)). Malaysia: Ministry of Agriculture, p. 364. (Call no.: RSING 634.9095951 BUR)
10.
Burkill, I. H. (2002). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1, (A-H)). Malaysia: Ministry of Agriculture, p. 364. (Call no.: RSING 634.9095951 BUR)
11.
Hutton, W. (2004). Handy pocket guide to Asian vegetables. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 16. (Call no.: RSEA 635.095 HUT); Larkcom, J. (2007). Oriental vegetables: The complete guide for the gardening cook. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, pp. 26‒27. (Call no.: R 635.04 LAR)
12.
Burkill, I. H. (2002). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1, (A-H)). Malaysia: Ministry of Agriculture, pp. 363, 366. (Call no.: RSING 634.9095951 BUR); Ng, P., Corlett, R. and Tan, H. (Eds.). (2011). Singapore biodiversity: An encyclopaedia of the natural environment and sustainable development. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, p. 248. (Call no.: RSING 333.95095957 SIN).
13.
Larkcom, J. (2007). Oriental vegetables: The complete guide for the gardening cook. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, pp. 25‒26. (Call no.: R 635.04 LAR)
14.
Larkcom, J. (2007). Oriental vegetables: The complete guide for the gardening cook. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, p. 26. (Call no.: R 635.04 LAR)
15.
Larkcom, J. (2007). Oriental vegetables: The complete guide for the gardening cook. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, p. 26. (Call no.: R 635.04 LAR)
16.
Hutton, W. (2004). Handy pocket guide to Asian vegetables. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 16. (Call no.: RSEA 635.095 HUT)
17. Larkcom, J. (2007). Oriental vegetables: The complete guide for the gardening cook. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, pp. 26, 29. (Call no.: R 635.04 LAR)
18.
Burkill, I. H. (2002). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1, (A-H)). Malaysia: Ministry of Agriculture, p. 364. Call no.: RSING 634.9095951 BUR
19.
Burkill, I. H. (2002). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1, (A-H)). Malaysia: Ministry of Agriculture, pp. 364‒365. (Call no.: RSING 634.9095951 BUR)
20.
Larkcom, J. (2007). Oriental vegetables: The complete guide for the gardening cook. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, p. 25. (Call no.: R 635.04 LAR)
21.
Larkcom, J. (2007). Oriental vegetables: The complete guide for the gardening cook. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, p. 25. (Call no.: R 635.04 LAR)
22.
Hutton, W. (2004). Handy pocket guide to Asian vegetables. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 16. (Call no.: RSEA 635.095 HUT)
23.
Larkcom, J. (2007). Oriental vegetables: The complete guide for the gardening cook. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, p. 25. (Call no.: R 635.04 LAR)
24.
Larkcom, J. (2007). Oriental vegetables: The complete guide for the gardening cook. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, p. 25. (Call no.: R 635.04 LAR)
25.
Larkcom, J. (2007). Oriental vegetables: The complete guide for the gardening cook. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, p. 25. (Call no.: R 635.04 LAR) 
26.Hutton, W. (2004). Handy pocket guide to Asian vegetables. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 16. (Call no.: RSEA 635.095 HUT)T



T
he information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Science and technology>>Agriculture>>Horticulture>>Vegetables
Bok choy
Cookery (Vegetables)
Nature>>Plants
Cookery>>International and regional cooking>>Chinese
Vegetables, Chinese
Cookery, Chinese
Plants