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Chinese Vegetables Illustrated


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While there have been other Chinese vegetable topics in the past, few of them were illustrated And some which were have lost those images in various "upgrades".

 

What I plan to do is photograph every vegetable I see and say what it is, if I know. However, this is a formidable task so it'll take time. The problem is that so many vegetables go under many different Chinese names and English names adopted from one or other Chinese language, too. For example, I know four different words for 'potato' and know there are more. And there are multiple regional preference in nomenclature. Most of what you will see will be vegetables from supermarkets, where I can see the Chinese labelling. In "farmer's" or wet markets, there is no labelling and although, If I ask, different traders will have different names for the same vegetable. Many a time I've been supplied a name, but been unable to find any reference to it from Mr Google or his Chinese counterparts. Or if I find the Chinese, can't find an accepted translation so have to translate literally.

 

Also, there is the problem that most of the names which are used in the English speaking countries have, for historical reasons, been adopted from Cantonese, whereas 90% of Chinese speak Mandarin (普通话 pǔ tōng huà). But I will do my best to supply as many alternative names as I can find. I shall also attempt to give Chinese names in simplified Chinese characters as used throughout mainland China and then in  traditional Chinese characters,  now mainly only used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and among much of the Chinese diaspora. If I only give one version, that means they are the same in Simp and Trad.

 

I'll try to do at least one a day. Until I collapse under the weight of vegetation.

 

Please, if you know any other names for any of these, chip in. Also, please point out any errors of mine.

 

I'll start with bok choy/choy. This is and alternatives such as  pak choi or pok choi are Anglicised attempts at the Cantonese pronunciation of the Mandarin! However in Cantonese it is more often 紹菜; Jyutping: siu6 coi3. In Chinese it is 白菜. Mandarin Pinyin 'bái cài'. This literally means 'white vegetable' but really just means 'cabbage' and of course there are many forms of cabbage. Merely asking for bái cài in many a Chinese store or restaurant will be met with blank stares and requests to clarify. From here on I'm just going to translate 白菜 as 'cabbage'.

So, here we go.


1183409075_dabaicai.thumb.jpg.93b74bcf85c515eda899405652363763.jpg

 

Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis

 

This is what you may be served if you just ask for baicai. Or maybe not. In much of China it is 大白菜 dà bái cài meaning 'big cabbage'. In English, usually known as Napa cabbage, Chinese cabbage, celery cabbage, Chinese leaf, etc.  In Chinese, alternative names include 结球白菜 / 結球白菜 ( jié qiú bái cài ), literally knotted ball cabbage, but there are many more. 

 

This cabbage is also frequently pickled and becomes  known as 酸菜 (Mand: suān cài; Cant: syun1 coi3) meaning 'sour vegetable', although this term is also used to refer to pickled mustard greens.

 

Suancai.thumb.jpg.bb1c6f7ee80f2c118a6e04c34f4e3de3.jpg

Pickled cabbage.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Very interesting.  Here in the SF Bay Area that would definitely be Napa Cabbage (not sure if that name comes from our Napa wine country), even in Asian markets.

 

Great thread idea though - looking forward to more!

 

ETA: It does not have anything to do with the wine country.  According to Wikipedia: The word "napa" in the name napa cabbage comes from colloquial and regional Japanese, where nappa (菜っ葉) refers to the leaves of any vegetable, especially when used as food.

Edited by mgaretz (log)
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14 minutes ago, mgaretz said:

 

ETA: It does not have anything to do with the wine country.  According to Wikipedia: The word "napa" in the name napa cabbage comes from colloquial and regional Japanese, where nappa (菜っ葉) refers to the leaves of any vegetable, especially when used as food.

 

 

Yes, I was just about to edit to mention that, but you beat me to it. By the way. Wikipedia articles on the various Brassica rapas are all over the place, self contradictory and utterly confusing. But that bit is correct.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Now it gets confusing.

 

Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis

 

Known in China as either 上海白菜 (Mandarin: shàng hǎi bái cài; Cantonese: soeng6 hoi2  baak6 coi3)  or 上海青 (Mandarin: shàng hǎi qīng; Cantonese: soeng6 hoi2 ceng1; literally Shanghai greens), this is known in English as Shanghai Bok Choy.

 

1352971690_ShanghaiBaicai.thumb.jpg.0d670d7c1d021b7c6e5cead89b87d8ab.jpg

 

This is often mislabelled as baby bok choy (including on Wikipedia). Baby bok choy is something else.

 

Wiki also claims nonsensically that

 

Quote

In China, the majority of Chinese speak Mandarin (about 955 million people), and for them, the term used most commonly is 青菜 qīng cài (literally "blue-green vegetable").

 

This is not true. 青菜 qīng cài just means "greens" and in restaurants you are normally asked which 青菜 qīng cài  you would like. It includes literally dozens of different vegetables and they will recite what is available.

 

coming next: the real baby bok choy.

 

 

Edited by liuzhou
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Baby Bok Choy is actually a misnomer as it implies that if left alone it will grow up into a regular cabbage. It won't. In Chinese it is 小白菜 (Mand: xiǎo bái cài; Cant: siu2 baak6 coi3) , which is literally 'small bok choy'. It, like the Shanghai bok choy, is cultivar of Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis.

 

977053520_xiaobaicai.thumb.jpg.5fbd3f1f895f8ab815b2bbd45f9e6d83.jpg

 

This is one of my favourite brassicas . It can been cooked or eaten raw in salads.

 

Also, may I mention here that vegetables are almost never steamed in China - they are stir fried, preferably in lard (ie pig fat).

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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what would you call this version :

 

baby-bok-choy-cashews-method-1.thumb.jpg.7b4be87ca73b6a756e14df39ccb93bac.jpg

 

I get this version , " baby ' sized .

 

I like the darker leaves and the whiter stems 

 

I doubt there are significant taste differences between this and the Shanghai 

Edited by rotuts (log)
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Thanks,  @liuzhou!  

Both the pale green stem type posted by  @liuzhou and the white stem type that @rotuts shared below are available locally in sizes that range from the size of a thumb up to larger than a forearm.  The small ones are often labeled "baby" in the stores.

5 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

1352971690_ShanghaiBaicai.thumb.jpg.0d670d7c1d021b7c6e5cead89b87d8ab.jpg

 

The white-stem sort shared by @rotuts

8 minutes ago, rotuts said:

what would you call this version :

 

baby-bok-choy-cashews-method-1.thumb.jpg.7b4be87ca73b6a756e14df39ccb93bac.jpg

 

 

And the most recent photo looks very much like what I see in stores labeled as Choy Sum or Chinese flowering cabbage.

37 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

977053520_xiaobaicai.thumb.jpg.5fbd3f1f895f8ab815b2bbd45f9e6d83.jpg

 

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1 hour ago, rotuts said:

what would you call this version :

 

baby-bok-choy-cashews-method-1.thumb.jpg.7b4be87ca73b6a756e14df39ccb93bac.jpg

 

I get this version , " baby ' sized .

 

I like the darker leaves and the whiter stems 

 

I doubt there are significant taste differences between this and the Shanghai 

 

 

I'll get to that one soon.

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This is great!

 

In my neck of the woods, we get a lot of these labeled in Cantonese too. So the napa cabbage is sometimes labeled siu choy, and the brassica rapa is usually labeled choy sum or yue choy or yue choy sum.

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I happen to be making an Indonesian dish later this week that calls for Napa Cabbage.  I need 1 sliced cup.  I haven't bought one yet because the size they come in is way more than I need.  Is Bok Choy or Shanghai a reasonable substitute?

Edited by ElsieD
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It is interesting to see th names and the images are great. Practically speaking though I just buy what looks interesting. Asking other shoppers how they treat the greens usually get the "soup or stir-fry" response. I've just learned what I like. One of my fun experiences was walking the dog at a regional park and seeing a Korean woman, elegantly dressed, with a big knife and a basket crouching down cutting a "weed". I asked and she said "for soup" and that I would not like it. I picked some. It was edible crysanthemum - I liked it :)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glebionis_coronaria

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42 minutes ago, ElsieD said:

I happen to be making an Indonesian dish later this week that calls for Napa Cabbage.  I need 1 sliced cup.  I haven't bought one yet because the size they come in is way more than I need.  Is Bok Choy of Shanghai a reasonable substitute?

 

The cabbage would cook more quickly. Taste-wise the bok-choy has a "greener" flavor and you have the firm stem versus soft leaf contrast to take into account. I'd use it from a flavor perspective. 

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1 hour ago, heidih said:

It is interesting to see th names and the images are great. Practically speaking though I just buy what looks interesting. Asking other shoppers how they treat the greens usually get the "soup or stir-fry" response. I've just learned what I like. One of my fun experiences was walking the dog at a regional park and seeing a Korean woman, elegantly dressed, with a big knife and a basket crouching down cutting a "weed". I asked and she said "for soup" and that I would not like it. I picked some. It was edible crysanthemum - I liked it :)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glebionis_coronaria

Just make sure you wash anything you pick in the park - who knows how many dogs could have peed on that chrysanthemum!

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1 hour ago, heidih said:

 

The cabbage would cook more quickly. Taste-wise the bok-choy has a "greener" flavor and you have the firm stem versus soft leaf contrast to take into account. I'd use it from a flavor perspective. 

 

@heidih  Maybe I just can't read, 😬 but you would use which one?

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5 minutes ago, KennethT said:

Just make sure you wash anything you pick in the park - who knows how many dogs could have peed on that chrysanthemum!

 

It wa a 1/2 acre meadow in a 53 acre space - not path adjacent ;)

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There is a slightly different cultivar of Napa type cabbage available.

 

1415478712_.thumb.jpg.ff23fe657272a60ed491e88775c6a3a5.jpg

 

This is known as 青麻叶大白菜 / 青麻葉大白 (M: qīng má yè dà cài; C: ceng1 maa jip6 daai6 baak6 coi3). This translates as Green Sesame Leaf Large Cabbage. My local supermarket drops part of the name, just going for 青麻白菜. It seems to me that the difference is purely visual. I can detect no difference in taste. That said, the supermarkets and markets all carry both.

 

I have been unable to find any English name for this version.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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We also get the round head type cabbages - Brassica oleracea. In Chinese, these are referred to as 包菜 (Mand: bāo cài; Cant: baau1 coi3) ,  with bao meaning wrap or bag. 

 

baocai.thumb.jpg.af09bc4143876405bf8479bab40fe248.jpg

 

One slight variation is the one known as 京包菜 (Mand: jīng bāo cà; Cant: qing1 baau1 coi3) , where jing/qing is an abbreviation for Beijing, so Beijing cabbage.

2098369261_.thumb.jpg.b0ab81b3eed7c31ca7c302d5a94ceab4.jpg

 

No. I can't see much difference either.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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14 hours ago, Darienne said:

In Ontario, this would be called Bok Choy and the first cabbage pictured would be called Napa Cabbage (as far as I know.)  Thanks liuzhou for this thread.

 

Here also this brassica is sold as Bok Choy, as differentiated from aforementioned Baby Bok Choy.  Thanks @liuzhou for the topic.  I am minded of an article I read not long ago about purchasing fruits and vegetables in Italy where the produce names are typically in dialect.  As one vendor explained:  "We point a lot."

 

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