Quick Fix: Baby Bok Choy and Tofu

by | Dec 15, 2008

Bok choy with tofu is one of my favorite quick meals of the winter, and few seasoning combinations pack as powerful a punch as soy sauce and garlic.

Bok choy is also known as Chinese cabbage. This succulent cruciferous vegetable thrives during the winter months and is cheap and readily available at almost any market. I like the baby variety because it is easier to adjust the serving size and is simple to cook. If you can’t find baby bok choy you can subsitute regular bok choy and cut it up accordingly.

If you think you do not like tofu, my guess is that you just haven’t had it cooked like it is supposed to be and I urge you to give it another try. Most perceived taste aversions can be overcome with a little effort.

Tofu is not just for vegetarians. I have grown to like it so much that sometimes I get cravings for it. Strange, I know.

One of the wonders of tofu is that it absorbs flavors beautifully, particularly garlic. Moreover, adding garlic to soy sauce is one of the easiest ways to get everyone in the house out of their rooms sniffing the air and asking what heavenly dish you are creating. It smells amazing and tastes even better.

Baby Bok Choy and Tofu


  • 2-4 stalks baby bok choy
  • tofu
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Dark soy sauce to taste

Carefully rinse baby bok choy and cut into quarters, longwise. Once it is cut check between the leaves to be sure no remaining dirt is hiding in the stem. If there is rinse again.

Cut tofu into bite-sized cubes. Heat olive oil in a pan and add bok choy cut sides down. Cook for several minutes, then make room for tofu on the bottom of the pan and add tofu. Cook 2 minutes then stir, making sure to cook both faces of the bok choy and tofu.

Once bok choy begins to wilt and become a little translucent, add garlic to the pan in a single layer. Leave for about 30 seconds, then splash soy sauce liberally into the pan. I like to use a good quality dark tamari soy sauce for this dish. Stir and continue to cook.

Allow soy sauce to reduce until it begins to form a glaze on the bok choy and tofu. Turn ingredients once or twice so all sides get coated. Add more soy sauce if necessary.

Remove from heat when bok choy reaches desired tenderness, about 8-10 minutes. Serve on a bed of brown rice.

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19 Responses to “Quick Fix: Baby Bok Choy and Tofu”

  1. Mike says:

    Is it okay to just use some chicken instead of the tofu?

  2. Darya Pino says:

    @MikeOf course! But you will have to cook it differently. You should cook the chicken before adding the bok choy.

  3. Zachary says:

    Isn’t soy sauce terrible for you? It seems that any soy sauce I’ve ever seen has ridiculous amounts of sodium in it (even the low sodium kind). Do you use one brand in particular?

  4. Darya Pino says:

    @ZacharyTerrible is a relative word. Should you drink it for breakfast? Probably not. It definitely has a lot of sodium, but you can still use moderate amounts safely.Soy sauce is a delicious, low-calorie ingredient that brings a wonderful and sometimes exotic flavor to foods.The brand I use in this dish is San-J. I get it at Whole Foods.When I want a lighter soy sauce (I use it to cook tempeh) I use the Trader Joe’s brand, but it isn’t particularly good.

  5. Anonymous says:

    One day, if you ever come to Hawaii, I can take you to places that serve real tofu. It’s much creamier and flavorful than store-bought tofu. Then someone from Japan can take us to Japan and have real REAL tofu made by master tofu artisans and is probably one of the best things you could ever eat. Seriously, there are tofu making masters in Japan, who are literally declared national treasures for their tofu making prowess. I can’t even imagine how good their tofu would taste.-Dan

  6. Anonymous says:

    It all makes sense now, why someone would carve ‘The Joy of Soy’ onto the drying cement of a sidewalk- they had obviously encountered the life-altering mythical Japanese artisan Tofu; now he/she wears Birkenstocks and does yoga….

  7. Darya Pino says:

    @DanI will come to Hawaii and experience your magical tofu. Then we will go to Japan and have extra lucky magic tofu. I can’t wait.

  8. Katie says:

    My favorite use of Soy? In Miso soup! Warm, tasty, and refreshing. (Plus you get to drink it with Sushi, which is the real Japanese treat)

  9. Matt Shook says:

    This sounds like a delicious and easy recipe to undertake. I would also second the notion that tofu often gets a bad rap from the inexperienced (as Anonymous #2 so eloquently stated)…it’s all in the preparation. Properly prepared tofu is excellent and as Darya stated, especially when complimented with delectable seasonings/herbs/marinades.I used to eat a fair amount of soy, but have recently cut it out of my diet. Sure I’ll occasionally have tofu in a stir-fry, but I switched from soy milk to making my own raw nut milk (cashew milk and almond milk mostly). I think it tastes awesome and is a healthier alternative to soy…Here is a question for you Darya…what do you think of the phyto-estrogens in soy? I’ve heard a lot of different opinions about how dangerous they can be…such that they can increase the likelihood of breast cancer in women. Soy is a estrogen-heavy product, and apparently not intended to be consumed regularly in large quantities. (…and certainly no GMO soy! It’s the worst!) What is your opinion on the matter?

  10. Darya Pino says:

    @MattLet me begin by saying that I really appreciate your thoughtful questions and contributions to this blog. You’re always sending me running around looking for answers, which I love!Regarding soy, I reviewed the scientific literature on PubMed and found that it still backed up what I remember from last time I studied this question:Indeed the some of the components in soy are phyto-estrogens (plant proteins that mimick human estrogen). It is also true that estrogen imbalance (too much) is known to cause breast cancer in women. However the opposite has been found with soy products since it seems soy intake reduces breast cancer risk. The reasons are debated but probably involve isoflavones.To be clear:Women who consume soy have a lower risk of breast cancer than women who do not eat soy.In Asia, for example, breast cancer is much lower than it is here. It is still unclear if soy is problematic for women who already have breast cancer, but the early data implies it is not. I recommend this review (if you can handle some serious science).Additionally, it seems soy reduces colorectal cancer risk and prostate cancer risk.My other concern was thyroid problems. Though there was enough of a question about a role for soy in hypothyroidism for several studies to be conducted, a meta analysis of all the trials found no evidence that soy contributes to thyroid dysfunction.All that being said, excessive soy consumption (10+ servings per week) is probably not advisable, to play it safe. However I do not see any reason to actively avoid soy.I hope this answers your question. I too have found many testimonials on the internet about the dangers of soy, but as a scientist I find systematic reviews and statistical analyses are the only conclusions I feel comfortable supporting.—–I looked into your garlic question as well and will post an answer there in the next day or two.

  11. Matt Shook says:

    @DaryaWow, thanks for the very thorough posting! I must say that your presentation has helped alleviate some of my fears regarding adding soy back into my diet (albeit very moderately). I have been relatively perplexed by the number of conflicting reports regarding soy…particularly concerning the impacts of phytoestrogens. Thanks again for the reply, and I’m glad I’m able to contribute and send you out looking for answers. I am going to check out all of the links you provided and see what conclusions I can come up with…now it’s my turn to find some of those answers.

  12. Darya Pino says:

    @Matt:Another thing to keep in mind is that despite the findings of large statistical studies, some people have different reactions to different drugs/foods because of genetic predispositions (defying the odds). Our technology is not at a place yet where we can really predict how individuals will react to foods, so take everything you read with a grain of salt (preferably sea salt).

  13. Matt Shook says:

    @DaryaThat Messina/Wood journal article is a good one…I particularly enjoyed the in depth explanation of the three basic types of isoflavones. The disclaimer at the bottom [(The Author)is president of Nutrition Matters, Inc., a nutrition consulting company with clients involved in the manufacture and/or sale of soyfoods and isoflavone supplements.] raises a few eyebrows, but the background research speaks for itself.Your reference to Asia and the lower rates of breast cancer makes perfect sense, and it reminded me of another article I read a few years ago noting the relative absence of osteoporosis in Asia. I believe this was attributed to the lack of dairy in their diet…One area where I can see soy consumption (or maybe over-consumption) could be potentially harmful is to the male reproductive system. It seems fairly logical that an increase in estrogen would have adverse affects on male reproductivity.With that said, I am going to slowly re-introduce high-quality soy into my diet. I am only considering sources that I am confident are non-gmo sources, as gmo-soy is really terrible stuff (lots of literature out there on that topic). Thanks again for addressing my questions.Btw, I’m looking forward to the garlic (allinase) response…

  14. Karin says:

    Mmmm that bok choy does look good right now- sounds like I need to be stocking these ingredients in my refrigerator more often

  15. Mike says:

    Interesting soy conversation- I’m going to give it a try!

  16. Jane says:

    Is it normal that often I get hungry after I eat this? I’m new to healthy eating and I often get hungry after a day’s worth of 3 balanced square meals, and several snacks in between.

    • Darya Pino says:

      Hi Jane,

      If you are getting hungry you are probably not eating enough. I would guess you probably need more fat, but it is hard to say without knowing more about your eating habits. Send me an email using the contact form if you’d like to chat more about this.


  17. Jacquie Hegarty says:

    I was looking for something quick ‘n’ easy to cook tonight, and I already had marinated tofu and bok choy that needed to be used – so this was perfect! The family LOVED it! 🙂

  18. Heather says:

    While hospitalized for respiratory problems, I was diagnosed with a severe allergy to soy; my mother also is allergic to it. This has proven to be quite a challenge while in various health care facilities for recuperation – practically every prepared product contains soy and/or artificial sweeteners (which I am not allergic to per se but am sensitive to and avoid whenever possible). The other thing impossible to avoid in institutional food is a lot of high-fructose corn syrup, along with a tendency to over-salt everything. 🙁

    Can’t wait to get out of here and get some good fresh fruit and locally grown fresh produce, gonna hit the farmers markets first thing.

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