Choy sum or cài xīn (菜心, in Mandarin) or yóu cài (油菜, yow choy in Cantonese), is a another common and popular Chinese leafy green vegetable. Although it looks similar, it should not be confused with Chinese broccoli. The taste of choy sum is much sweeter and more tender than the Chinese broccoli. The texture of these is a bit closer to bok choy. We love these because they are mild in flavor and go great as a side dish or addition to tons of different dishes.
Yu choy is literally translated as “oil vegetable” because it is in the family of rapeseed and is actually used to produce oil. Another fun fact is that a variety of yu choy or rapeseed is grown primarily to produce canola oil, one of our go-tos when cooking.
Choy sum is literally translated as “vegetable heart” which refers to the edible stem or stalk you see in the picture below. These vegetables are generally grown until the plant just begins to show signs of shooting and flowering, but these days, they are also picked early as young plants–about 3 to 4 inches high. This is when they’re at their best. Home gardeners frequently cut the tips off to let the rest of the plant grow more between trimmings. We grow these in our garden and hope to share a post and pictures one of these days. These choy sum vegetables cook up nicely. This versatile dark green, leafy vegetable can be sautéed, added to soups, stir-fried, or blanched alone.
Our Easy Chinese Yu Choy Sum vegetable side dish is done in 5 minutes! Flavor agents include soy or oyster sauce, ginger, and garlic. But this is really just the tip of the iceberg. Sarah came up with a unique Creamy Roasted Choy Sum Pesto Pasta that is definitely worth checking out! Aside from that, it is used as the green veggie in quite a few noodle dishes like 15 Minute Chinese Hot Oil Noodles (You Po Mian) or Pan Fried Noodles with Chicken (Gai See Chow Mein).