Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Chinese Vegetables Illustrated


liuzhou

Recommended Posts

Just now, liuzhou said:

 

Thinking further about this, think a big difference is that in Vietnam (my favourite culinary destination) most of these greens are served raw as salad items, whereas in China, they will always be cooked, so pristine samples aren't quite so important.

 

This makes a lot of sense.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the reminder. I used to sell the variegata (tri-color) version. Very showy. With a large font label "highly invasive" - those aggressive rhizomes. I didn't know its culinary use until I saw it referenced in a Vietnamese blog. I donlt have access anymore but I think a friend does or did. Will have to check.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 months later...

Today, I bought a pizza. Pizzas are not vegetables. But this one was delivered to my home accompanied by a vegetable I've rarely seen in markets or supermarkets in China, but occasionally in restaurants. I'm talking about Eruca vesicaria or Eruca sativa Mill., popularly known in Commonwealth English as rocket, from the French roquette which in turn is from the Italian ruchetta. It was adopted into English in the early 16th century. In the USA and Canada, it ls known as arugula from the Calabrian dialect word, aruculu, although this seems to be a mid-20th century innovation. Whatever you call it, it is native to the Mediterranean lands.

 

In Chinese, it is bizarrely known as 芝麻菜 (zhī ma cài) or 芝麻叶 (zhī ma yè). These are misnomers. They translate as ‘sesame vegetable’ or ‘sesame leaf’, respectively. Sesame is a totally different plant, Sesamum indicum, and I have seen no evidence that its leaves are eaten other than being used in TCM, mostly as a laxative.

 

I was surprised that the rocket was delivered separately to be eaten uncooked or just wilted in the pizza’s residual heat. When it is (only occasionally) used in Chinese cuisine, it is usually lightly stir fried like any other green vegetable rather than being treated as a herb. Occasionally it is added to soups.

 

rocket.jpg.c938bf24f36f7006a5149e926314080c.jpg

Eruca sativa Mill.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
  • Like 1

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
Mark Twain

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, liuzhou said:

Today, I bought a pizza. Pizzas are not vegetables. But this one was delivered to my home accompanied by a vegetable I've rarely seen in markets or supermarkets in China, but occasionally in restaurants. I'm talking about Eruca vesicaria or Eruca sativa Mill., popularly known in Commonwealth English as rocket, from the French roquette which in turn is from the Italian ruchetta. It was adopted into English in the early 16th century. In the USA and Canada, it known as arugula from the Calabrian dialect word, aruculu, although this seems to be a mid-20th century innovation. Whatever you call it, it is native to the Mediterranean lands.

 

In Chinese, it is bizarrely known as 芝麻菜 (zhī ma cài) or 芝麻叶 (zhī ma yè). These are misnomers. They translate as ‘sesame vegetable’ or ‘sesame leaf’, respectively. Sesame is a totally different plant, Sesamum indicum, and I have seen no evidence that its leaves are eaten other than being used in TCM, mostly as a laxative.

 

I was surprised that the rocket was delivered separately to be eaten uncooked or just wilted in the pizza’s residual heat. When it is (only occasionally) used in Chinese cuisine, it is usually lightly stir fried like any other green vegetable rather than being treated as a herb. Occasionally it is added to soups.

 

rocket.jpg.c938bf24f36f7006a5149e926314080c.jpg

Eruca sativa Mill.

I think it's pretty common to throw fresh arugula on a pizza after it comes out of the oven. Ideally, at least from my perspective the pizza should be really hot so the arugula wilts a bit on top.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

42 minutes ago, Katie Meadow said:

I think it's pretty common to throw fresh arugula on a pizza after it comes out of the oven. Ideally, at least from my perspective the pizza should be really hot so the arugula wilts a bit on top.

 

Yes. That is true but I was surprised to see a restaurant in China going on with that theory. Most Chinese customers have a strong aversion to uncooked food.

 

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
Mark Twain

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Another recent find locally is Cymbopogon citratus lemongrass, lemon grass, citronella etc. In Chinese, 柠檬草 (níng méng cǎo), 香茅草 (xiāng máo cǎo ) or just 香茅 (xiāng máo).

 

This perennial grass is common in SE Asia, perhaps most famously in Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. It pairs perfectly with fish and seafood dishes as well as bringing an acid touch to some SE Asian curries. I also once had it in a SE Asian themed restaurant here in Liuzhou where stalks of lemon grass were used as skewers for grilled chicken 'kebabs'.

 

lemongrass1.thumb.jpg.4b1ea82f44ed11743a8ab23cb73820d5.jpg

 

lemongrass1.thumb.jpg.44fd7fd907ff25de96b4ef64547251b2.jpg

 

 

I am hoping that my recent finds of culantro and now, lemon grass are heralds of closer economic and trade ties between China and the Association of SE Asian Nations (ASEAN) members - for the last few years they have been holding an annual joint conference in Guangxi's capital Nanning, just about an hour down the bullet train track from Liuzhou.

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
  • Like 1

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
Mark Twain

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to comment
Share on other sites

20 minutes ago, heidih said:

Kinda expensive 4 something that grows like  weed - esp in your climate.

Yes, but it's uncommon there so it is a specialty item.  I'm sure if you were to drive a couple hours to Vietnam, it would be 1/10th the price but also every vendor sells tons of it every day.  Plus, since it's not used often in that area, I wonder if the lemongrass was imported rather than grown locally.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes It is imported from Vietnam. It isn't grown here. Very little demand. I am willing to bet none of my neighbours would know what it is.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
  • Like 2

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
Mark Twain

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

Here is an unusual vegetable in many ways. It is not common even here and only has a two week season at its best. We are looking at 香椿 (xiāng chūn), Chinese toon (Toona sinensis), the leaves of a tree native to China. In fact, it is the only tree found in northern Asia which has edible leaves. The first character in the Chinese name, 香(xiāng) means ‘fragrant’ and is important as there is another type of toon which is anything but fragrant and is inedible. What you need to get hold of is 香椿芽 (xiāng chūn yá) which is ‘toon buds’.

 

These crisp, crunchy and truly aromatic red buds are most commonly paired with eggs with which they have a particular affinity. I’ve had them in omelettes and with scrambled egg. It can also be eaten in salads, especially a tofu salad with oil, lemon juice and walnuts.

 

The deeper the red colour is, the better. And the pricier. Those in my first picture cost 66.50 元 for 100 grams; the paler ones in the second picture were a mere 11.60 元 for 100 g.

 

xiangchun2.thumb.jpg.f9a8b1e69a674e41ef4572852439307e.jpg

 

xiangchun1.thumb.jpg.7a454eb1aa61798377d4ca3e5fde66aa.jpg

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
Mark Twain

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And another.

 

This is 红菜花 (hóng cài huā) or 红菜苔 (hóng cài tāi), red cabbage moss or red canola (rape), a type of brassica.  Only found in winter, it is slightly bitter in taste. Popular in Sichuan.

 

The stems and leaves are sliced and stir fried, usually in freshly rendered lard. Unfortunately, it turns green when cooked. There is more information (in fractured English) here. What she translates as 'fuel consumption' is oyster sauce. Go figure!

 

_20231213161110.thumb.jpg.c30083e66c92669e2c101d3b22ff5923.jpg

 

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
Mark Twain

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 12/11/2023 at 2:21 AM, liuzhou said:

Here is an unusual vegetable in many ways. It is not common even here and only has a two week season at its best. We are looking at 香椿 (xiāng chūn), Chinese toon (Toona sinensis), the leaves of a tree native to China. In fact, it is the only tree found in northern Asia which has edible leaves. The first character in the Chinese name, 香(xiāng) means ‘fragrant’ and is important as there is another type of toon which is anything but fragrant and is inedible. What you need to get hold of is 香椿芽 (xiāng chūn yá) which is ‘toon buds’.

 

These crisp, crunchy and truly aromatic red buds are most commonly paired with eggs with which they have a particular affinity. I’ve had them in omelettes and with scrambled egg. It can also be eaten in salads, especially a tofu salad with oil, lemon juice and walnuts.

 

The deeper the red colour is, the better. And the pricier. Those in my first picture cost 66.50 元 for 100 grams; the paler ones in the second picture were a mere 11.60 元 for 100 g.

 

xiangchun2.thumb.jpg.f9a8b1e69a674e41ef4572852439307e.jpg

 

xiangchun1.thumb.jpg.7a454eb1aa61798377d4ca3e5fde66aa.jpg

 

 

 

Interesting plant indeed. I have two bushes in my garden (NYC). I am growing them because I read that they taste like beef. Although I don't taste the beef flavor, but many of my friends do.

 

(----------Chinese Toon is valued for its young, soft leaves which are enjoyed as a unique vegetable and herb. With a savory flavor much reminiscent of beef and onions, the young leaves are used parboiled or stir fried in a variety of dishes and it is a staple crop in southeast Asia.----------------)

dcarch

Edited by dcarch (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Despite claims in ancient topics here, basil is virtually unknown in China. In 28 years the only basil I've eaten is what I've grown myself. Never in restaurant or banquet and I've been to thousands of the former and hundreds of the latter.

 

So, I was surprised this morning to see basil listed on my local food ingredients delivery app. The listing incorporated both names it goes by in Mandarin: 九层塔 (jiǔ céng tǎ) or 罗勒叶 (luó lè yè). I ordered some. 
 

What turned up was this.

 

IMG_20240130_185123.thumb.jpg.33f6f2b276b5af945b3264ed70aad13b.jpg

 

I have no real idea what it is but I know what it certainly isn't - basil. I think it may be a type of perilla. Very disappointing. Can't plant my basil seeds for a couple of months yet.

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
Mark Twain

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 minutes ago, weinoo said:

 

I'm sure @KennethT can tell us.

 

It's not Thai Basil. I'm very familiar with that. Also the Chinese names given are those of sweet basil. 

 

 

 

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
Mark Twain

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, liuzhou said:

 

It's not Thai Basil. I'm very familiar with that. Also the Chinese names given are those of sweet basil. 

 

 

 

It's hard to tell by looks alone, but from the photo, it looks like all the Thai basil I've grown - even the flowers (which I am constantly picking).  But there are many different Thai basil cultivars, so I wouldn't be surprised if the one you're used to seeing looks different.  In central Vietnam, I saw a lot of Thai basil being grown that only had little leaves, maybe 2cm long at the most, but I was told that it was Thai basil (hung que) and had a similar but not exactly the same flavor as what I was used to.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What they sent has large leaves and yes, looks like Thai Basil I've ever eaten often across SE Asia. However the taste is totally different. Some perilla cultivars have similar purple stems and flowers which makes me think the store have misidentified it. It also looks different from the image on their listing. Much duller.

 

Screenshot_20240130_172001_com.sankuai.meituan.thumb.jpg.d5253cc1d7dc8a99d24471bc9b23f511.jpg

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
Mark Twain

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've had that small húng quế in Vietnam too. Forget precisely where, though. 

 

Anyway, I'll call the vendor tomorrow and see if they can elucidate. I've used them a lot and they're quite friendly.

 

 

  • Like 1

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
Mark Twain

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, liuzhou said:

I've had that small húng quế in Vietnam too. Forget precisely where, though. 

 

Anyway, I'll call the vendor tomorrow and see if they can elucidate. I've used them a lot and they're quite friendly.

 

 

Yeah, please keep us updated - I'm curious.  All the perilla I've seen - the leaves are more thin and delicate than basil and the smell is totally different.  I wish I could smell whatever you've got!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

55 minutes ago, KennethT said:

Yeah, please keep us updated - I'm curious.  All the perilla I've seen - the leaves are more thin and delicate than basil and the smell is totally different.  I wish I could smell whatever you've got!

 

Don't the leaves of perilla tend to have a more jagged edge than the Thai basil stuff pictured above?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

57 minutes ago, KennethT said:

 I wish I could smell whatever you've got!

 

First thing I noticed was the almost complete LACK of smell.

  • Confused 1

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
Mark Twain

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to comment
Share on other sites

12 minutes ago, weinoo said:

 

Don't the leaves of perilla tend to have a more jagged edge than the Thai basil stuff pictured above?

 

Not always. There are many types perilla too.

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
Mark Twain

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to comment
Share on other sites

×
×
  • Create New...