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liuzhou

Chinese Vegetables Illustrated

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9 hours ago, liuzhou said:

This morning, in a local supermarket, I found this pile of dirty little ball-shaped things.

 

Chinese water chestnuts.

 

Cleaned up, they look like this.

 

1671643449_mati3.thumb.jpg.00729bb0aed8f7e34050596edf2eb7ed.jpg

 

Despite their their nutty name, they are not nuts, but a root vegetable. More technically a corm.

 

They are eaten in many ways. They can be ground to make a type of flour used in sweet dim sum cakes. They can be candied. They are used in hot pots and stews.

 

They are not something I buy a lot and when I do I buy them from the farmers' market, where a couple of women sit peeling them all day long. They do it 100 times faster than I ever could.

A long time ago, I was really excited to find fresh water chestnuts like these in one of our local supermarkets. I bought a bunch, and then paid again when I spent far too much time cleaning them up. When I ate some, I was chagrined to discover that they tasted remarkably like jicama, which is a lot larger and thus a lot easier to peel and otherwise prepare, not to mention more readily available everywhere I've lived. Since then, I've subbed in jicama for water chestnuts in many recipes, and it works for me. The jicama is maybe a touch sweeter than water chestnuts, but it doesn't taste like a can and has the same crunch. I like crunch almost as much as I like bubbles in my drink.

 

Maybe I'd go back to water chestnuts if I had women peeling them at my farmer's market. Alas, it's still nearly 4 months till the market will open for the 2019 season, so I'll have to wait to find out! 😂

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3 hours ago, MelissaH said:

A long time ago, I was really excited to find fresh water chestnuts like these in one of our local supermarkets. I bought a bunch, and then paid again when I spent far too much time cleaning them up. When I ate some, I was chagrined to discover that they tasted remarkably like jicama, which is a lot larger and thus a lot easier to peel and otherwise prepare, not to mention more readily available everywhere I've lived. Since then, I've subbed in jicama for water chestnuts in many recipes, and it works for me. The jicama is maybe a touch sweeter than water chestnuts, but it doesn't taste like a can and has the same crunch. I like crunch almost as much as I like bubbles in my drink.

 

Maybe I'd go back to water chestnuts if I had women peeling them at my farmer's market. Alas, it's still nearly 4 months till the market will open for the 2019 season, so I'll have to wait to find out! 😂

 

This is the kind of worthwhile info I LOVE to learn on eGullet. Thanks!

 

My kids demand water chestnuts in all stir fries. They're getting jicama in the next one.

 

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Posted (edited)

This morning, I came across something in the supermarket that I don't recall seeing before. I had a vague inkling as to what it might be, but wasn't sure.

 

roujiecai.thumb.jpg.478a478c3b009022241b9c36da9c579d.jpg

 

When this supermarket opened a few years back, it seems they had a competition among the staff to see who had the best Chinese handwriting. The person who came in last was given the job of writing all the hand-written signs in the fresh food area. They are illegible. The only way to identify things you don't know is to ask the staff at the weigh station or take a chance and then read the label their scales magically produce indication the price and identity.

This cunning ruse failed immediately. As I approached the station, the guy behind it looked at me most strangely as if I had deliberately smuggled some alien vegetable life form into his store just to upset him.

"What's that?" he asked.

 

"I'm not sure," I wittily responded.

Several seconds of silence ensued as he stood there panicking,  then he said "wait a minute" and ran off in search off a manager. Miraculously, this was a successful strategy and he returned to consult his long list of vegetables to find the code he needed to enter.

 

Then he handed me my choice of duly labelled produce.

 

I immediately looked at the printed name and read 肉芥菜 (ròu jiè cài). My inkling was spot on. Mustard root!

 

The leaves of the plant are ubiquitous in the local cuisine - I featured them pages back, but now we have the roots, which research informs me is the new big thing.

 

They can be treated like any other root vegetable: boiled, roasted, steamed; and of course stir fried.

 

(One source gives me the very useful information that, in parts of Africa, they are considered to be an aid to promoting lactation in those people who do such things.)

 

 


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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2 hours ago, liuzhou said:

They can be treated like any other root vegetable: boiled, roasted, steamed; and of course stir fried.

 Thanks for sharing this story.   I have frequently run into greenhorn check-out clerks here who, when presented with something like kohlrabi, plead  with innocent eyes for a clue.  But when I am presented with the range of vegetables in an Asian store, the tables are turned. Rarely are they displayed with English labels. 

 

Have you cooked these roots yet? Are they something that you will seek out in the future? Can you relate the taste to anything I might recognize?


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

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On 2/3/2019 at 9:33 AM, kayb said:

I LOVE water chestnuts. I can only imagine how much better the fresh must be than the canned.

 

 

I got them fresh ONCE at the Korean market near me that went out of business. They were pretty divine, however, they have ruined me for ever buying the canned ones again. You would not believe how lightly and perfectly sweet, to balance a savory dish, and just how wonderfully crisp the fresh ones are, if all you've had experience of are canned. I had to peel them myself, and it's a PITA, but worth the effort.

 

The drawback is the fresh ones are quite perishable, and some of mine went to waste. I thought they would last longer in their tough armored shells.

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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2 hours ago, Anna N said:

Have you cooked these roots yet? Are they something that you will seek out in the future? Can you relate the taste to anything I might recognize?

 

I did intend to cook them tonight, but fate intervened and I had to go out for dinner. I'll deal with them tomorrow and let you know. They are often pickled and I've eat that many times, but I've ever had them fresh before.

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, Thanks for the Crepes said:

 

I got them fresh ONCE at the Korean market near me that went out of business. They were pretty divine, however, they have ruined me for ever buying the canned ones again. You would not believe how lightly and perfectly sweet, to balance a savory dish, and just how wonderfully crisp the fresh ones are, if all you've had experience of are canned. I had to peel them myself, and it's a PITA, but worth the effort.

 

The drawback is the fresh ones are quite perishable, and some of mine went to waste. I thought they would last longer in their tough armored shells. 

 

Yeah, they don't keep well, but then Chinese shoppers tend to only buy what they will prepare that day, or next at worst, so it doesn't really matter a lot.

I couldn't do the canned ones again. but after 23 years in China, I don't have to. I've never seen them canned here but then again, I see very little canned.

.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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On 3/19/2019 at 7:34 PM, liuzhou said:

I'll deal with them tomorrow and let you know.

 

@Anna N

 

As promised and intended, I cooked half of them tonight with dinner. To my surprise and slight disappointment, they were rather mildly flavoured with no hint of the advertised mustard at all. Kind of like but not like courgettes/ zucchini or similar gourds.  Not unpleasant at all and they did retain a nice crispness.  I wouldn't rule out buying them again.

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On never seeing canned water chestnuts in China, this reminded me of something way back in 1989.

 

Together with a bunch of other foreign students I was attending Chinese language classes in Shanghai. Every week or so the university organized outings for us in Shanghai and surrounding areas. One such outing was to the Maling canning factory, in an area outside Shanghai . They took us to the area where the water chestnuts were prepared prior to canning.

 

It was a room full of middle-aged and elderly ladies, seated on low stools, peeling each water chestnut by hand and pushing it by hand through a metal slicer mounted over a bucket. 

 

I've since seen Maling brand canned water chestnuts in various different countries over the years, and wonder if they are still being prepared by hand...

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Interesting on the hand peeling. The tinned ones are so so far from their fresh kin that they would not recognize one another.  Like one of those sayings  "once you've had X you can never go back"

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Fresh water chestnuts are a popular summer street food.

 

dcarch

 

 

 

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48 minutes ago, dcarch said:

Fresh water chestnuts are a popular summer street food.

 

dcarch

 

 

 

 

What's the typical method of prep for them when they're served as street food? Or for fresh ones in general?

 

My kids, all now grown, still protest vociferously if I make a stir-fry that doesn't have "crunchies" in it.

 

 

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7 hours ago, anzu said:

I've since seen Maling brand canned water chestnuts in various different countries over the years, and wonder if they are still being prepared by hand...

 

I'd say, probably. Here is a  b&w photograph I took a week ago of one of the women in my local market peeling water chestnuts.

 

1103315109_waterchestnutpeeler.thumb.jpg.a48c6b5b6694663db03f3cf1639196bd.jpg

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I've been aware of this vegetable for several years , but until today never saw it in markets or supermarkets. In Mandarin it is 扣子菜 (kòu zi cài) which roughly translates as 'buckle vegetable', but the only reference on Google to 'buckle vegetable' is something I posted, so...

I've never been able to find any Latin or alternative English name.

 

buckle.thumb.jpg.ea37a5774f372da2961d8f585dcc62cb.jpg

 

This picture is from an up-scale dinner in 2012, when I was served it  in this soup with century eggs and garlic. I remember enjoying it a lot.

 

1024805665_BuckleVegetable.thumb.jpg.119d310cb658d6f10aaafd8e5cee7e48.jpg

 

Some searching of Mr Google's Chinese alternatives suggest it is in the same Solanum  genus as tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes etc, but nothing conclusive.

 

Buckle up and don't buckle under.

 

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Re: water chestnuts. I, too, bought some fresh and now am totally ruined for ever eating them from the can again. I did some online research and found that there's a contagion which might be present in a raw water chestnut which can be neutralized by blanching. Has anyone heard of this? @liuzhou, am I correct in assuming that people in China don't worry about eating raw water chestnuts?

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12 minutes ago, TdeV said:

@liuzhou, am I correct in assuming that people in China don't worry about eating raw water chestnuts?

 

 

Chinese people are generally averse to eating anything raw. The few exceptions are cucumber and yes, very occasionally water chestnuts.

 

But I wouldn't say it's particularly common.

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On 3/19/2019 at 5:35 AM, Thanks for the Crepes said:

 

I got them fresh ONCE at the Korean market near me that went out of business. They were pretty divine, however, they have ruined me for ever buying the canned ones again. You would not believe how lightly and perfectly sweet, to balance a savory dish, and just how wonderfully crisp the fresh ones are, if all you've had experience of are canned. I had to peel them myself, and it's a PITA, but worth the effort.

 

The drawback is the fresh ones are quite perishable, and some of mine went to waste. I thought they would last longer in their tough armored shells.

I think I've said it before, but instead of water chestnuts, I use jicama these days. It has the same crunchy, lightly sweet quality, and because they're bigger, I find them much easier to peel and otherwise work with.

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MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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On 11/9/2018 at 8:19 PM, Anna N said:

Do these retain their colour when they are cooked?

 

On 11/9/2018 at 9:23 PM, liuzhou said:

 

Good question to which I don't know the answer. I've never cooked the red ones. But I will buy some tomorrow and get back to you!

 

On 11/10/2018 at 1:16 PM, liuzhou said:

 

@Anna N

 

Well, just typical. I went to four different places and not one had the red variety today. They all did two days ago. I'll grab some next time I see them. Probably soon.

 

In the meantime, however, I did see a white variety. I have seen it before, but it's less common. I'm adding to the original relevant post now.

 

@Anna N

 

You may vaguely remember this conversation we had over six months ago about red long beans. Well, today, they finally appeared in the market for the new season , so I grabbed some.

57416164_1.thumb.jpg.d847483bfd595adc5c5cec6c5ce99811.jpg

They don't fit in my dinner plan for tonight, but I cut a couple up and stir fried them until al dente, as my neighbours would do, to see what happened. The good news is that they do retain their colour. In fact, if anything, it deepens. I'll eat the rest tomorrow.

 

 

507619968_2.thumb.jpg.93d0fcf0fd984bc2f165bbed3af36c1f.jpg

 

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They look similar to what we in the South (US) grew up with as purple hull peas. What length will these grow to, and do they have a distinct pea inside? I'd be interested in seeing one if they do. 


And this old porch is like a steaming greasy plate of enchiladas,With lots of cheese and onions and a guacamole salad ...This Old Porch...Lyle Lovett

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Thank you. The ones to which I referred are typically less than a foot and the pea inside is about 1/3 less the size of yours. When fully grown and ready for harvest, the hull of the peas get husky and can be used for livestock feed, but while still small and tender are snapped into smaller bite sized pieces and cooked along with the peas ( simmered or boiled with a bit of bacon or smoked pork.) ...peas with snaps.   

 

Your stir fried ones look very tasty. That appeals to me very much.

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And this old porch is like a steaming greasy plate of enchiladas,With lots of cheese and onions and a guacamole salad ...This Old Porch...Lyle Lovett

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