Putting our own twist on a classic Chinese bok choy side dish with crispy garlic and shallots and a balsamic soy dressing. An easy Asian side dish for any day of the week.
Why You’ll Love This Grilled Bok Choy
Bok choy is a Chinese cooking staple. It’s a versatile ingredient that can be added to any Chinese stir fry and soup noodle dish. It’s cheap to buy, readily available all year round and stores well in the fridge for a few days. Bok choy is one of our go-to Chinese vegetables.
So when I am craving for something a little different from stir-fry bok choy, this easy grilled bok choy side dish recipe is one I use.
First, we change how we cook bok choy. No wok needed. Instead, I grill the bok choy bunches lightly to create a golden char.
Homemade crispy garlic and shallots add delicious fragrance, flavour and texture. So much better than store bought and not hard to make at all. Plus, the leftover infused oil can be used for other dishes.
Add an unsuspected balsamic soy dressing, and this grilled bok choy dish transforms the humble vegetable into a fantastic side dish to share.
What is Bok Choy?
A direct translation from Cantonese, bok choy means “white vegetable”.
This Chinese cabbage variety has tender green leaves with crisp white coloured clustered stalks. So I guess the name bok choy comes from the white stalks that provide delicious, sweet crunch.
There are two varieties of bok choy you might see at the local Asian grocer. The variety we use in this recipe is known as Chinese baby bok choy. This is more common and has a green tinge on the stalks plus a wide leafy green top.
The other bok choy is the Shanghai bok choy with a much whiter stalk and dark green curly leaf. I find Shanghai bok choy smaller in size and a similar appearance to a white silverbeet but a miniature version.
Bok choy belongs to the mustard family along with cabbage, turnips, broccoli and kale.
What Does Bok Choy Taste Like?
The entire plant is edible, from dark green leaves to white stalks. I find bok choy to have a mild yet sweet flavour. The stalks are quite juicy as they retain quite a bit of water. The green leaves do have more of a mineral flavour compared to the white stalk.
The smaller the bok choy, the more tender is it and sweeter in flavour. As the plant matures, the stalk and leaves become slightly more bitter. Tiny bok choy hearts is a delicacy in Chinese restaurants as you don’t often harvest them so young.
How to Cook Bok Choy?
Bok choy is very much a staple in Asian households. Each family will have their own Chinese side dish recipes on how to cook bok choy.
The most popular method is to use bok choy in stir-fries but can be also added to soups, fried noodles and also used in pickling like kim chi.
When choosing bok choy, select bunches that are firm and compact, you want to have bright green leaves with crisp stalks without holes or brown spots.
Called pak choy (literally means “white vegetable” in Cantonese), you can also consume it raw such as in our Pak Choy Salad with Coriander Lime Dressing.
Flavour/Texture: When grilled, bok choy becomes soft but still retains a delicious crunch and finishes with a charred flavour that can not be achieved with other popular methods of cooking bok choy. Plus, the crispy garlic and shallots add an extra level of texture.
As for flavour, I love the sweet yet tangy balsamic soy sauce seeping through the bok choy leaves. Balsamic vinegar creates a richness in the flavour that is different if we used another type of vinegar. Plus, it helps to cut through the slightly oily flavour of crispy garlic and shallots.
Ease: This is an easy Chinese side dish with simple ingredients. And even though you are making your own crispy garlic chips and fried shallot, it is not tricky – just a little time and effort.
Time: Most of the time will be spent frying the shallots and garlic as we are doing this over gradual heat, and it does need watching.
You can prepare a batch of crispy garlic and shallots in advance and grill the bok choy closer time to serve. It should not take more than 25 minutes to complete.
Garlic: Cooking garlic does change its flavour. It becomes less pungent and spicy. Crispy garlic not only adds a slightly nutty flavour but great texture as well.
Shallot: I love using red shallots in my cooking. The mild, subtle onion flavour compliments rather than overwhelm a dish. Great for frying as well.
Oil: The oil is used for cooking, so a mild vegetable oil is fine for frying garlic and shallots and brush over baby choy before grilling.
Baby bok choy: We typically purchase bok choy in a pack of 2-3. I would select ones that have a compact and firm head. Don’t select ones that are too large for this dish as you are not cutting down to bite sized pieces. It would need to fit on the serving platter you are using.
Balsamic vinegar: For this recipe, I prefer a good quality balsamic vinegar or, if possible, an aged vinegar which I had in my pantry. As this is such a simple recipe, the darker and heavier caramel flavours of aged balsamic vinegar would come through the dressing.
Soy sauce: Adding light soy sauce to balsamic vinegar helps balance the tartness but not overpower.
Sesame oil: The fragrant sesame oil is quintessential in Asian cooking. For this recipe, I wanted to add a little depth to the sauce and compliment the crispy shallots and garlic.
Variations and Substitutions
Can I use other vegetables? Yes, of course. Grilled bok choy is the main hero of this Chinese side dish. Still, this combination works with other vegetables like Shanghai bok choy, Chinese broccoli, zucchini, baby leeks and snow peas.
Substituting balsamic vinegar: If you don’t have any balsamic vinegar in the pantry, you can use Chinese black vinegar. The overall profile will be more tart than balsamic, so I would add a little sugar to taste.
Thinly slice garlic cloves lengthwise and shallots into thin rounds.
Place sliced garlic and shallots into a small saucepan and add ½ cup oil.
Over gradual heat, fry garlic and shallots until golden brown. Do stir the garlic and shallots a bit in the oil, so they fry evenly.
Once done, remove from heat and rest on a paper towel.
You don’t need to throw out the leftover oil. I usually retain it for other stir-fry dishes or noodles.
Slice bok choy in half lengthwise.
Wash baby bok choy well to remove dirt from inside the head.
Brush boy choy with a little bit of oil.
Over high heat, place bok choy cut side down on griddle pan. Cook until you get nice char marks on the side and the bok choy is starting to become tender.
Flip over and grill for another 2 minutes or so.
We don’t want to overcook the baby bok choy until it is wilted, as you want to retain some crunch when serving.
Remove from heat and place on serving platter.
Mix balsamic vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce. Drizzle over grilled bok choy.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Scatter crispy garlic and shallots on top to finish.
Great Mains for This Side Dish
Here are some great main dishes to have with this grilled bok choy side dish.
For some Asian inspired dishes, try this honey sriracha salmon is a bold flavoured dish that is both sweet and spicy. OR there is always this classic flavoured Chinese dish, black bean sauce tofu. Served up with hot rice, yum!
Frequently Asked Questions
You can store bok choy in the vegetable cabinet in the fridge. They keep well loosely in a closed plastic bag for about 3-5 days. Avoid washing until you are ready to use them.
Balsamic vinegar is similar to wine in that the longer you age it, the better it gets. Commercial balsamic vinegar these days are sometimes only aged for 2 months before it hits the store shelves.
Younger balsamic vinegar is good for cooking and light salad dressings, but if you want to truly appreciate the full flavours, it is best to use an aged balsamic vinegar. Typically this would be around 12 years and up to 25 years.
Aged balsamic vinegar is fantastic for dipping, salad dressings and sauces where it can shine.
Technically yes. Traditionally made balsamic vinegar is vegan and gluten free but always check the labelling as there might be other additives we are not aware of. Balsamic vinegar is not keto friendly, though, as it is classified as a high carb food.
Next time you are stuck for a simple Asian side dish that is not a stir-fry, try grilled bok choy.
The grilling process enhances the sweetness but adds smoky char flavour that I love with crispy garlic and shallots. Plus, when served on a large platter laid out neatly, it adds another level of interest to the table.
More Asian Side Dishes
Grilled Bok Choy with Crispy Garlic
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Thinly slice garlic cloves lengthwise and shallots into thin rounds.Place sliced garlic and shallots into a small saucepan and add ½ cup oil.Over gradual heat, fry garlic and shallots until golden brown. Once done, remove from heat and rest on a paper towel.
- Slice bok choy in half lengthwise.Wash bok choy well to remove dirt from inside the head. Brush bok choy with a little bit of oil.Over high heat, place bok choy cut side down on griddle pan. Cook until you get nice char marks on the side and the bok choy is starting to become tender. Flip over and grill for another 2 minutes or so. Remove from heat and place on serving platter.
- Mix balsamic vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce together. Drizzle over grilled bok choy.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Scatter crispy garlic and shallots on top to finish.
- This combination works with other vegetables like Shanghai bok choy, Chinese broccoli, zucchini, baby leeks and snow peas.
- You can substitute balsamic vinegar with Chinese black vinegar. The overall profile will be more tart than balsamic so add a little sugar to taste.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
Don’t want to miss out on a recipe? Feed your FOMO and we’ll deliver it into your inbox!
Disclaimer: This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you.