Isn’t this a gorgeous bunch of greens? What you’re looking at is a head of tatsoi (taht-SOY), an Asian green in the large brassica family, which means it’s related to broccoli and mustard. Even if it’s not familiar to you, chances are you’ve likely eaten the smaller spoon-shaped leaves in Asian salad mixes. Sometimes you’ll see the leaves sold loose in upscale markets with large produce sections.
In order to see a whole head of tatsoi, though, you’ve got to go to a farmers market. I was blown away the first time I saw a tatsoi plant in its entirety. It looked remarkably like a flat leafy Frisbee. So I was surprised to see the tatsoi heads standing tall this past weekend, but according to the Kitazawa Seed Company, tatsoi grows more erect in warm weather and flattens out in colder weather. Considering the warm summer we’ve had, no wonder the tatsoi heads aren’t Frisbee-like this season.
Some people describe the leaves as having a mild mustard flavor. I didn’t detect any of that characteristic mustardy heat in the raw leaves from this bunch, and when cooked, it was as mild as baby bok choy. I could have just cut off the leaves and served them in a salad, but I can’t bear to waste stems, so I cooked the whole head.
I sliced the stems into 3/4-inch lengths and stir-fried them with some finely chopped garlic and a generous pinch of salt in olive oil for a minute or two, then added a couple tablespoons of water and steamed them, covered, for a couple of minutes to soften them further. At that point I added the whole leaves, stirring and turning them with tongs for about a minute, then added about ¼ cup water and another generous pinch of salt and steamed them, covered, until wilted and tender, about 3 to 4 minutes more.
What started out as a cast-iron skillet filled to the rim with a pound of tatsoi, cooked down to a generous two cups, enough for four people as a side dish. You could give it an Asian flavor with ginger, soy sauce, and a touch of toasted sesame oil, but it’s just as delicious in a simple Italian-style treatment with garlic and olive oil—ciao chow!