This crowd-pleaser, bursting with Thai flavors and boasting a bit of heat, is one of my favorite destinations for baby bok choy. It takes a bit of time to prepare, but the cooking goes quickly. Have a pot of rice going before you start. You certainly don’t have to use Thai basil here, though I love its alluring cinnamon scent. A combo of cilantro and mint or basil works great too. Pretty pea greens are optional, as are pea shoots.

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon Asian chili-garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped serrano peppers (about 1 large or 2 small, seeds and ribs removed; or use 1 teaspoon with seeds and ribs left in if you like a little heat)
  • 1 1/4 pounds large shrimp (31 to 35 count), peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound baby bok choy (4 to 6 small heads, depending on size)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Thai basil (or any combination of basil, mint, or cilantro)
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 cups pea greens or pea shoots (when in season) or a handful of watercress or thinly slice scallions )  
  • Cooked rice, for serving
  • 14 cup chopped roasted peanuts (optional)


1. In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, 2 tablespoons water, the brown sugar, chili-garlic paste, and cornstarch. Whisk thoroughly and set aside. In another small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon ginger, 1 tablespoon garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the serranos and set aside. In a mixing bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1/2 teaspoon serranos, the orange juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

2. Cut each head of baby bok choy in half lengthwise and then crosswise at the “neck” where the leafy part begins. Reserve the leafy tops. Notch the core (with a V-cut) out of the stem ends. Cut the stems lengthwise into pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Drop all the stems and leafy tops into a big bowl of tepid (almost warm) water, swish around, and let sit for a few minutes. If stubborn dirt clings to the stems, rub it off with your hands. Remove the bok choy from the water and spread on a dish towel. Let the pieces sit for a few minutes to drip a bit (they do not need to be dry).

3. In a large (12-inch) nonstick stir-fry pan or skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (it will loosen up), add the bok choy and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using tongs, toss to coat. Turn the heat to high.

4. Cook, tossing with tongs occasionally, until browning begins, 2 to 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium high and continue cooking and stirring until all the pieces have some browning and the stems are pliable (but not completely limp), 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the bok choy to a plate. Let the pan cool for a minute.

5. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan, turn the heat back to high, and return the pan to the heat. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp. (Scrape the bowl to add any bits of garlic and ginger left behind.) Cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are just shy of being cooked through (they will have curled up but will not be totally opaque), about 2 minutes. Return the bok choy to the pan, stir, and add the reserved ginger-garlic mixture. Stir until well-combined and fragrant, about 30 seconds.

6. Scrape the fish sauce mixture into the pan, stir constantly for 10 to 20 seconds as the sauce thickens slightly, and remove the pan from the heat. Continue stirring to coat the shrimp and vegetables with the sauce. Stir in the pea greens or shoots (if using) and about 2 tablespoons of the herbs. Stir again. Arrange cooked rice on a serving platter or in individual shallow serving bowls. Transfer the shrimp and bok choy mixture to the platter or bowls, arranging over the rice. Garnish with the remaining herbs and peanuts (if using).