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liuzhou

Chinese Vegetables Illustrated

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I'm fascinated to learn that when I see something labeled as "nappa" cabbage in my supermarket, they aren't misspelling it!

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@liuzhou Very true... but I was also comparing the price of the cai hua to the spinach... it's almost half the price.

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On 10/16/2018 at 8:07 AM, liuzhou said:

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 fat).

 

 

This is the stuff that I always thought of as gai lan. 


Edited by cdh (log)

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51 minutes ago, cdh said:

This is the stuff that I always thought of as gai lan. 

 

 Hhmmm - gai lan in my book looks like broccolini or rapini on steroids. 

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6 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

@gfweb

 

Here are the two side by side.

 

2cabbages.thumb.jpg.9cdc3edf6c058e5bbfd96c6466c88bd0.jpg

 

In Australia we call the one on the right wombok. Makes a great salad with crispy noodles, crushed peanuts, spring onions and a rice wine dressing. 

Thanks for the topic @liuzhou

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2 hours ago, heidih said:

 Hhmmm - gai lan in my book looks like broccolini or rapini on steroids. 

Right - gai lan is called "Chinese Broccoli" sometimes in the USA... also, keep in mind that gailan is the Cantonese for Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra (from Wikipedia).  The stems are much thicker and hardier than what has been pictured above so far.

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7 hours ago, cdh said:

This is the stuff that I always thought of as gai lan. 

 

 

Definitely not gailan, which I will get around to.

 

But indicative of the confusion that surrounds this  topic.

 

And talking of confusion, here is a round-up of cabbage-y looking things widely available here which I have never been able to  identify, despite having tried for years.

 

The first is 奶白菜 (Mand: nǎi bái cài; Cant: naai baak6 coi3) which translates as 'milk cabbage'.

 

429279104_MilkCabbage.thumb.jpg.e42b34b54be5b67d2c12edf35edc4d6d.jpg

 

Then we have 小白口 (Mand: xiǎo bái kǒu; Cant: siu2 baak6 hau2) which translates literally as 'small white mouth'. The only on-line reference I can find in any language says that it is napa cabbage, which it clearly isn't.

 

946039413_.thumb.jpg.876283d1544f02e6dd18576814a41d4c.jpg

 

 


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Speaking of spinach, the Chinese stores here in NYC has Malabar spinach. I also enjoy sweet potato greens ans snow pea shoots. These three vegetables are not that cheap.

 

dcarch

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Isn't "malabar spinach" that mucilagenous veg? Not really botanically spinach? I use it at times mostly in soups. It is pretty cheap here in Asian markets - big bag for $2 usually. The pea shoots come in 2 forms - the ones with leaves and tendrils are pretty cheap. The teeny shoots  are expensive but I imagine that is because there is lots of loss as they do not keep well. 

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On 10/19/2018 at 2:21 AM, cdh said:

This is the stuff that I always thought of as gai lan. 

 

 

On 10/19/2018 at 3:15 AM, heidih said:

 Hhmmm - gai lan in my book looks like broccolini or rapini on steroids. 

 

On 10/19/2018 at 5:18 AM, KennethT said:

Right - gai lan is called "Chinese Broccoli" sometimes in the USA... also, keep in mind that gailan is the Cantonese for Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra (from Wikipedia).  The stems are much thicker and hardier than what has been pictured above so far.

 

While in the supermarket I picked up a bunch of 'gailan'. Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra as noted by @KennethT.

 

In Chinese it is 芥兰/芥蘭 (Mand:  jiè lán; Cant: gaai3 laan4*2). In English it is usually Chinese broccoli or sometimes Chinese kale.

 

gailan3.thumb.jpg.121d67a437ca5299ebcb6b52b532002e.jpg

 

In the next image you can see the thick stem, @KennethT also mentioned.

 

This is another vegetable that is usually simply stir fried (in lard, for preference) with garlic and maybe oyster sauce.

gailan2.jpg


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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As it has been mentioned, I'm also bringing this one forward.

 

Basella alba

 

木耳菜 (Mand: mù ěr cài; Cant: muk6 ji5 coi2; literally 'wood ear vegetable') seems to be most commonly called Malibar spinach in English.

 

Not closely related to true spinach, it has many names in both Chinese and English.  In English - vine spinach, red vine spinach, climbing spinach, creeping spinach, buffalo spinach and Ceylon spinach among others.

 

In Chinese - 紫角叶, 胭脂菜, 胭脂豆, 蚕菜, 木耳菜, 天葵, 胡臙脂, 牛皮凍, 蟳公菜, 蟳管菜, 蟳菜, 蝟菜, 軟筋菜, 軟姜仔, 藤菜, 藤葵, 蔠葵, 非洲菠菜, 繁露, 蘩露, 龍宮菜, 潺菜. No! I'm not going to transliterate all of those!

 

1427012433_MalabarSpinach.thumb.jpg.2b4bc609c6eef4595bf3e5fbe05849d1.jpg

 

It is usually briefly stir fried or added to soups. Over-cooking it can make it somewhat mucilaginous or slimy, similar to the sliminess associated with okra. It can also be eaten raw but is somewhat tough and peppery.

It has no connection to the similarly named fungus, 木耳 (wood ear fungus).

 

It is easily differentiated from true spinach which has purple tinged stems and roots. However, there is apparently a variety of Basella - Basella rubra which does have red to purplish stems and roots. I've never seen it, though.

 

 


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

And talking of confusion, here is a round-up of cabbage-y looking things widely available here which I have never been able to  identify, despite having tried for years.

 

The first is 奶白菜 (Mand: nǎi bái cài; Cant: naai baak6 coi3) which translates as 'milk cabbage'.

 

 429279104_MilkCabbage.thumb.jpg.e42b34b54be5b67d2c12edf35edc4d6d.jpg

 

Then we have 小白口 (Mand: xiǎo bái kǒu; Cant: siu2 baak6 hau2) which translates literally as 'small white mouth'. The only on-line reference I can find in any language says that it is napa cabbage, which it clearly isn't.

 

946039413_.thumb.jpg.876283d1544f02e6dd18576814a41d4c.jpg

 

 

I have never seen either of these here.  The first looks like a cross between white-stemmed bok choy and yu choy, the second a cross between napa cabbage and romaine lettuce.

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1 minute ago, mgaretz said:

 

I have never seen either of these here.  The first looks like a cross between white-stemmed bok choy and yu choy, the second a cross between napa cabbage and romaine lettuce.

 

Yes.  I see what you mean. I need to find a botanist.

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On 10/18/2018 at 9:25 AM, liuzhou said:

Good question. It strikes me that I've never actually been served it by any Chinese friends and there are no recipes in any of my Chinese cookbooks or on the internet, that I can see. Yet every supermarket and wet market has it, so they must be doing something with it. I guess it is simply stir fried like the green and white varieties. I'll ask friends over the weekend how they use it.

 

@Beebs

 

My exhaustive poll among China's 1.4 billion population has elicited five replies so far  from friends whose culinary knowledge I trust.

 

The consensus is that red cabbage is mainly pickled much as it is in Europe and, I believe, North America. Some said they only use it in western style salads, but they are very unusual - both my friends and the salads. Chinese people rarely do raw.

If anyone comes up with a specifically Chinese usage, I'll let you know.

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6 minutes ago, mgaretz said:

 

Maybe the second is more like Gai Choy - maybe a variation on it?  How does it taste? 

 

I don't know. I've never knowingly had it. Maybe I have, but most of these greens look the same after being cooked.

 

I'll get to gai choy soon. It is one of the two most common greens round here.


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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@Beebs

 

I've found this video of a Chinese recipe for stuffed cabbage using red cabbage leaves. It's in Chinese but should be fairly easy to follow visually. The ingredients of the stuffing mix, in order, are glutinous rice (cooked) pork, shiitake mushrooms, salt, white pepper soy sauce and oyster sauce. ASis usual here, no quantities are given, so you just have to use your own judgement.

 

And on YouTube, there is this:

 

 

Again,  I think easy to follow without knowing Chinese. There are more at https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=紫包菜

 


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

 

 

Again,  I think easy to follow without knowing Chinese. There are more at https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=紫包菜

 

@liuzhou It looks like she hand-shredded/tore the entire head of cabbage. Why not use a knife? Is the dish better when the leaves are torn as opposed to being cut? It just seems a little odd to me.

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On 10/20/2018 at 2:37 AM, Toliver said:

@liuzhou It looks like she hand-shredded/tore the entire head of cabbage. Why not use a knife? Is the dish better when the leaves are torn as opposed to being cut? It just seems a little odd to me.

 

I don't know if it tastes better but she does say near the end that "This hand torn purple cabbage with scrambled egg is ready." There are a number of "hand-torn" dishes in Chinese cuisine, so maybe it's just traditional. Or maybe she just doesn't have a knife!


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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苦麻菜 (Mand: kǔ má cài; Cant: fu2 maa4 coi2)

 

Bitter Hemp

 

This, I'm told, a variety of lettuce, grown mainly in Yunnan province. It grows to around 50cm long (The ones in the image were around 40cm). It was originally used as animal fodder, but the locals developed a taste for its bitter flavour and from there it spread.

 

1421296520_bitterhemp.thumb.jpg.4a27c9bdd8e7c29b59e69ae3132620a3.jpg

 

The leaves are briefly blanched in boiling water, then refreshed in cold water to remove some of the bitterness, then stir fried or added to soups etc.

 

Although it can be more bitter when older, younger leaves, while bitter are not unpleasantly so. This is one I like.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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So, far I've shown 17 vegetables. Only 100 more to catch up with my supermarket stocks, then they will find something else as the seasons change!

 

Speaking of lettuce varieties (last post), here is another.

 

Lactuca sativa var. asparagina

 

celtuce2.thumb.jpg.ec567235fe6f0a14b0b506839ca26fbd.jpg

 

Although it doesn’t look like it, this is a member of the lettuce family. I know it as celtuce, but it's also known as known in English as stem lettuce, celery lettuce, asparagus lettuce, sword lettuce, A-choy, or Chinese lettuce. In Chinese it is 莴笋/萵筍 (Mand: wō sǔn; Cant: wo1 seon2)  or 莴苣/萵苣 (Mand: wō jù; Cant: wo1 geoi6).

 

celtuce.thumb.jpg.e3634d579d72a8ee68a3b9fc1da6ba4b.jpg

 

Those in the second picture are about 40 cm (15.7 inches) long and have a maximum diameter of 5 cm (2 inches). The stems are peeled, sliced and used in various stir fries. The taste is somewhere between lettuce and celery, hence the name. The texture is more like the latter.

 

The leafy tops are also sold separately as 油麦菜/油麥菜 (Mand: yóu mài cài; Cant: jau4 mak6 coi3).

 

The stems are also dried and sold as 贡菜/貢菜 (Mand: gòng cài; Cant:  gung3 coi3), literally 'tribute vegetable'.

 

 


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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1 hour ago, liuzhou said:

 

 There are a number of "hand-torn" dishes in Chinese cuisine, so maybe it's just traditional. Or maybe she just doesn't have a knife!

 

 

Perhaps because children help with meal preparation? This would be the sort of activity which would keep the very little ones out of trouble and productive. (My parents first let me use a knife, a small one, at age 4. But not every parent is that trusting.)

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