Beyond Bok Choy: Red Shen Choy

No one is impressed by your bok choy habit.  It is so naughts.  Bok choy is simply passe.  Luckily, there is a world of Asian greens to explore at your friendly Asian Grocery.  Be brave.  Branch out.  Eat red shen choy.

Red shen choy is also known as red amaranth.  Amaranth grain is adored, typically in the form of an inoffensive breakfast gruel championed by crunchy types.  But it also has leaves, a lovely purplish-red bleeding into green, that are earthy, a bit grassy, and quite nice chopped and blanched or steamed.

Earthy is difficult for some.  Who wants to consume something that tastes like dirt, like decaying leaves, or even, as in the case of certain fine red wines, like shit.  We’ll call it barnyard, but we really mean poo.

The following recipe utilizes stock, which my loyal readers are well aware, I consider essential.  But it is Japanese, is called dashi, and is much different from western stocks, made with mirepoix, herbs, aromatics, and animal bones and their connective tissue.  It’s made from water infused with kombu, a hearty dried kelp, and bonito, which is a dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna.  It is savory, smoky, and packed with umami.

Mise en Place


  • large pot
  • colander lined with a clean kitchen towel
  • large bowl


  • an 8 inch square piece of kombu
  • 1/2 oz bonito flakes
  • bundle of soba noodles
  • large handful red shen choy, chopped
  • 2 tbs light soy sauce
  • 1 tbs mirin
  • small handful enoki mushrooms
  • yolk of 1 quail egg
  • chili oil

1) Make the dashi.  In the large pot, cover the kombu with 2 1/2 quarts water and allow to soak for 1/2 hour.  Turn the heat to medium until bubbles start to appear before removing the kombu.  Remove the kombu, before adding the bonito and bringing the stock to a boil for five minutes.  Strain the stock through the cloth-lined colander into the large bowl.

2) Boil the soba, and blanch the shen choy.  Clean out the pot, and colander and bring a few quarts of water to a boil. Add the bundle of soba noodles.  Allow the soba to boil for 4 minutes before adding the shen choy.  After boiling for two more minutes drain the pasta and shen choy.

3) Compose the noodle bowl.  Place the noodles and shen choy in a small bowl.  Ladle a cup of dashi, which should still be hot over the noodles.  Reserve the rest for another use. Top with the enoki mushrooms, nestling the egg yolk in the center.  Drizzle chili oil, to taste around the rim of the bowl.

The earthy notes from the shen choy, the mushrooms, and the are prominent, but I believe they are balanced by the smokiness of the dashi, the sweetness of the mirin, the saltiness of the soy sauce, and the heat of the chili oil.  I encourage experimenting with the quantities of the ingredients to find your ideal balance.

If this is your first experience with dashi, give it a chance.  You might not fall in love at first taste, but I believe you might find yourself sipping the remaining broth directly from the bowl, and wishing for more.  This broth has a way of pulling you in.

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