Stir-fried ‘Almost Sesame’ Rosemary Asian Greens

No sesame oil? No problem. Mimic the flavour with the following secret ingredients

Credit: Cookthinker

Don’t despair if you’re allergic to sesame oil, try this workaround

If you have a sensitivity to sesame, you can recreate the flavour with these fresh ingredients

I have always delighted in the subtle flavour of sesame oil. Found in many Asian markets, it imparts a wonderfully nutty undertone to chicken or fish dishes. Best of all, I love the simplicity of Asian greens lightly stir-fried in sesame oil. Easy and quick, this dish rounds out a meal as a healthy, tasty side to more complex dishes.

After my son was diagnosed with an allergy to sesame (along with about eight other foods), I sadly gave away my trusty bottle of sesame oil. I wistfully dreamed of eating those deliciously aromatic greens again until a eureka moment hit me.

Imagining the flavours in my head led me to try this alternative using fresh rosemary and garlic. You can use it with almost any green leafy vegetable you like, but I am fond of bok choy or sui choy. Even good old broccoli or snow peas taste great with this sustitute for sesame oil.

Freshly chopped rosemary and garlic. (Images: Angela Schmeidel Randall and Stephen Mackenzie)


  • 3 to 4 heads baby bok choy or sui choy or 1 large head bok choy – cleaned and very coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary – needles pulled from the stem (substitute: 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, but the flavour will be less ‘lively’)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


  1. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan. (You can test using a tiny piece of garlic, which should immediately sizzle if the oil is hot enough.)
  2. Drop the rosemary and garlic into the oil. Allow the garlic to brown but not burn, then remove both the garlic and rosemary from the oil using a slotted spoon. Discard.
  3. Place the greens in the oil and stir-fry for two to three minutes.

Serves 4 as an accompaniment.

James Ruttan has written everything from fiction to film and radio scripts as well as user instruction manuals and business plans. Arriving in Vancouver in the 90’s after teaching English in Indonesia, he became an editor. He has now returned as a freelance writer.