Everything You Wanted To Know (or not) About: Mizuna -- The OTHER Arugula

Friday, May 27, 2011

At first glance you may think this is a bowl of arugula. Au contraire, mon frere. It is is not! It is mizuna, a similar leafy green that actually departs in flavor from arugula like soy beans would to peas. You may have encountered mizuna without even knowing it. The leaves are the leafy part of the turnip plant, and the seeds of the plant are converted into canola oil.

Mizuna is a very popular and common ingredients in Japanese cuisine, although its origins is probably Chinese. They can be served raw (as you would arugula) or better yet, quickly cooked. The tender, beautifully fringed leaves have a subtle piquant flavor to them, considerably toned down from the peppery arugula, so if you dislike arugula for its aggressive taste, then mizuna might be your green of choice. When cooked the deep nutty and slightly bitter flavor gets drawn out, making it a popular dish served with noodles and seafood in Asian cuisine.

In terms of foods, it's a popular ingredients for stir-fries and soups, and again soba-type noodle dishes. It wilts almost instantly, so no need to coax out the desired texture when working with this green. You can also serve it raw with minimal seasonings like olive oil, salt and pepper or perhaps a little sesame oil and soy sauce, or include it raw among other tender greens. It presents beautifully in its raw form, the delicate fanned out fringes along the sides but also turns a gorgeous deep green color when cooked.

Although it's prevalent in Asia, it may be harder to find in American markets. Your best bet is touring your local farmers markets, which is where I found mine this past weekend. Or, try your hand at growing some! The seeds grow incredibly fast and mizuna (along with arugula for that matter) grows well in containers.

Here's a quick recipe using mizuna, bok choy, and tofu from my current issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. If you don't do the tofu, you can certainly substitute with some shrimp or just leave it as is with the mizuna and bok choy. Enjoy!

Stir-Fried Mizuna with Bok Choy and Tofu
3 1/2 tablespoonssoy sauce, divided
4 teaspoonsAsian sesame oil, divided
3 1/2teaspoonsunseasoned rice vinegar, divided
1 14- to 16-ounce container extra-firm tofu, drained
2 tablespoonspeanut oil
4 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoonfinely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 baby bok choy, leaves separated
12 cuploosely packed mizuna (about 8 ounces)


Whisk 2 Tbsp of soy sauce, 2 tsp of sesame oil, and 1/2 tsp of vinegar in a bowl. Stack 2 paper towels on work surface. Cut tofu crosswise into 3/4 inch thick slices; cut each slice crosswise in half. Arrange tofu on paper towels and let stand 10 minutes. Pat top of tofu dry.
Heat peanut oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu and cook, without moving, until golden brown on bottom, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer tofu to paper towel to drain, then place tofu on sheet of foil and brush both sides with soy sauce mixture.

Wipe out any peanut oil from skillet. Add 2 teaspoons sesame oil and place skillet over medium heat. Add green onions, ginger, and garlic. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining 11/2 tablespoons soy sauce and 3 teaspoons vinegar, then bok choy. Toss until bok choy wilts, 1 to 2 minutes. Add mizuna in 2 batches, tossing to wilt before adding more, 1 to 2 minutes per batch.

Season greens with salt and pepper. Add tofu to skillet. Toss gently to blend. Transfer to platter.

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