Get Your Greens On!Sep 01, 2016
— This article appeared in the September, 2016 Bamboo Telegraph, Singapore
It is no secret that leafy greens are essential to good health. But unless you eat like a rabbit, it is difficult to always get enough in your diet. Here are some ways to incorporate Asian greens available in Singapore into your meals.
Why are green leafy vegetables such an important part of a nutritious diet? They contain a plethora of vital vitamins, minerals and protein. Asian greens are high in fiber, calcium, potassium, iron and beta carotene. They are excellent for weight management as they are low in calories. Leafy greens are useful in reducing heart disease, increasing bone density and helping to regulate blood sugar levels in diabetics because of their dense nutrient rich characteristics.
Kale, spinach and romaine lettuce are common greens in the United States, and, while they can be found in Singapore, they are generally more expensive. Local greens are nutrient packed, readily available and tend to be fresher. Asian greens offer a variety of flavours and tastes while taking advantage of what is in season locally.
The best way to use Asian greens are: in a stir fry; blanche to just past al dente and toss with mushroom sauce or soy sauce and some crushed garlic; add to soups, stews or curries; substitute your regular salad greens with an Asian variety.
Substitute these greens next time you visit the market:
Kai lan (also known as gai lan, Chinese broccoli) is my personal favourite! It is mild in flavour and easy to make. Since you can use both the stalks and leaves there is little waste. Sauté it in a little coconut oil and garlic and you have a delicious addition to any meal. Kai lan also works well as a substitute for spinach.
Napa Cabbage (also known as Chinese cabbage) is the key ingredient in kimchi. Napa cabbage is a versatile substitute to green cabbage or even lettuce. It has a flavour more mild that traditional cabbage. Use it shredded in a salad, use the whole leave for cabbage rolls with an Asian flair, or use braised with shiitake mushrooms and chills.
Bok Choy (also known as pok choi, you cai) is a type of Chinese cabbage. Part of the cruciferous family, it is somewhat of a cross between lettuce and cabbage as it never forms a head. Bok choy is mild in flavour; baby bok choy being the most mild. Use it raw in salad, chopped in a stir fry or added to soups.
Mizuna (also called Japanese greens, shui cai) is a green similar in flavour to arugula or mustard greens but more mild. It makes excellent salad greens, or serve it slightly wilted over a hot dish like pasta, risotto or pizza.
When buying Asian greens, make sure that the leaves are not yellow or wilted. Store them in the refrigerator and use before leaves start to turn brown.
Next time you visit your local market select one of these greens or perhaps one you haven’t heard of before. Try it, you might like it! If you’re not sure how to prepare it, ask a local Singaporean. I have found that most Singaporeans are quite happy to share their cooking secrets!