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Chinese Vegetables Illustrated


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Still on lettuce, I should mention that we do get what I, and probably you, think of as 'regular' lettuce. Sadly, only one type.

 

lettuce2.thumb.jpg.2af2ecf0474edb3840999b5f54ff6cd3.jpg

 

Romaine or Cos lettuce. Lactuca sativa L. var. longifolia. I do like the Chinese name. Just as 'whisky', derived from the Gaelic 'uisgebeatha' literally meaning ‘water of life’, the Chinese name for this lettuce is 生菜 (Mand: shēng cài; Cant: saang1 coi3), meaning ''vegetable of life' (literally 'life vegetable').

 

I'm not sure how long you could live on just whisky and lettuce, though.

 

lettuce.thumb.jpg.4914490cc314794da468c9d7891f013b.jpg

 

Like most of the preceding veg, this is usually served wilted with garlic and oyster sauce, but rarely raw. It is also used in noodle or wonton soups.

 

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Next, another of my favourites.

 

Ipomoea batatas - sweet potato shoots.

 

Although their origin is in the Americas, the sweet potato was introduced to China in the late 16th century and rapidly became popular. It didn't take the Chinese long to figure out that the shoots are even better than the root. In fact,  I don't really like the potatoes, but the shoots are great.

We only get the red skinned variety, so the Chinese name is 红薯苗/紅薯苗 Mand: hóng shǔ miáo; Cant: hung4 syu4 miu4), meaning 'red potato shoot'.

 

1604019637_sweetpotatoshoots.thumb.jpg.2e2847eba5c185c13c2652b23ad7a8bb.jpg

 

Again, usually stir fried with garlic and  maybe chilli or used in hot pots. 

 

I'll say more about the potatoes when I get to root vegetables, probably around 2053.

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What do the sweet potato shoots taste like?  I've seen them in my local Korean/Asian store and have been curious, but not curious enough to take the plunge without hearing what someone else thinks!

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40 minutes ago, KennethT said:

What do the sweet potato shoots taste like?  I've seen them in my local Korean/Asian store and have been curious, but not curious enough to take the plunge without hearing what someone else thinks!

 

 

They taste green and almost spinach-like. Perhaps a bit more delicate. If you like any greens you'll like them.

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1 hour ago, KennethT said:

What do the sweet potato shoots taste like?  I've seen them in my local Korean/Asian store and have been curious, but not curious enough to take the plunge without hearing what someone else thinks!

 

As I remember, sweet potato belongs to the Morning Glory family botanically. They taste pleasantly interesting. Mild and with a hint of fragrance. 

Always tender and not fiber-y.

I grow them in my garden. A creeper and a climber. Massive supply of greens for stir fries. Can't eat them fast enough.

 

dcarch

 

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Tired at looking at all of this greenery? Here are a couple of only semi-green greens.

 

First up is amaranth. There are 70 different species, but the ones we get most often are  Amaranthus dubius.

 

amaranth.thumb.jpg.f5426c95fb8b2227837511cec19418b7.jpg

 

Quite distinctively red and green, this is a plant which grows worldwide and which is usually regarded as a weed, but in China is a well-liked foodstuff. And why not?

 

In Chinese it is usually 苋菜/莧菜 (Mand: xiàn cài; Cant: jin6 coi3), but is known in the local dialect as 汉菜/漢菜 (Mand: hàn cài; Cant: hon3 coi3) , which kind of means ‘Chinese vegetable’.  In  English and English renditions of Cantonese  it is red spinach, Chinese spinach,, spleen amaranth, hon-toi-moi, yin choy, or hsien tsai.

 

These leaves can leech red juices which colour everything they meet. For that reason it tends to be less frequently used in soups etc, but is simply stir fried. The taste is reminiscent of spinach (hence one of its English names). It is also packed with minerals and vitamins and general good things.

 

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15 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

Tired at looking at all of this greenery? Here are a couple of only semi-green greens.

 

First up is amaranth. There are 70 different species, but the ones we get most often are  Amaranthus dubius.

 

What?  Only seventy?

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learn, learn, learn...

 

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Another not entirely green "green" is Perilla frutescens var. crispa.

 

Purple Perilla, 紫苏/紫蘇 (Mand: zǐ sū; Cant: zi2 sou1*) is a plant in the mint family used both as a vegetable and occasionally as a herb. It is a popular choice throughout South-east Asia and Japan as well as here in China.

 

Perilla comes in green varieties, known in Japan as shiso ( シソ ), but the popular choice round here is the ‘purple’ variety. In fact it’s not entirely purple.

 

1822307924_purpleperilla.thumb.jpg.e31bd40cff53a9002e851823fa586c71.jpg

 

As you can see from the picture below which is of one leaf, one side is green and the other purple. This trait and the leaves’ sawtooth edges help to distinguish it from other purple vegetable which are superficially similar. Amaranth leaves, for example are either entirely green or entirely purple and lack the serrated edge.

 

perilla2.thumb.jpg.64d0fd9d40b83727b766a07f654d8101.jpg

 

Perilla is generally simply stir-fried as a leaf vegetable with garlic and/or ginger and served as a dish to accompany others.

 

It is important to know that cooking the plant causes the red/purple colouring to leech out. In many people’s eyes this makes the vegetable undesirable if mixed with other ingredients.

 

Of course, perilla is also used in TCM (traditional Chinese medicine). What isn’t? They reckon it boosts the immune system and alleviates the common cold. Probably does a better job in the latter case than the useless injections everyone insists on having. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses, but they won’t believe me. They also think colds are caused by cold. Nonsense. They forget that every time they get a summer cold. But, I digress.

 

* Beware. The Cantonese name zi2 sou1 is also used to mean basil.

 

More on Monday.  I need a rest.

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Back to the greenery after a short respite. (I know I said Monday, but an event has been cancelled,so here I am.)

 

Lycium chinense

 

310275454_gouqicai.thumb.jpg.c0d35e35f49b7d42383f2cec9b2cc757.jpg

 

These are the shoots of the wolfberry plant also, more recently, known as the goji plant, source of the goji berries touted by every know-nothing "health expert" as a so-called superfood.

 

Known in Chinese as 枸杞菜 (Mand: gǒu qǐ cài; Cant: gau2 gei2 coi3, literally goji vegetable) or 枸杞叶/枸杞葉 (Mand: gǒu qǐ yè; Cant:  gau2 gei2 jip6, literally 'goji leaf').

 

Young  stems are also edible, but more normally the leaves are stripped from older, woody stems. They are simply stir fried or added to hot pots. Another good'un.

 

I'll deal with the berries separately in due course.

 

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1 hour ago, weinoo said:

Certainly no match for your project, @liuzhou, but Serious Eats tried with this...

 

The Serious Eats Field Guide to Asian Greens

 

Yeah, I read that some time back. It's good as far as it goes, but only 17 examples. I'm over 20 so far and  there are plenty more to come.

They, for good reason,  stuck with what is available in most Asian markets in the US. I'm trying to go wider and document every thing I see here. I'll never finish.

 

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On 10/19/2018 at 1:01 AM, liuzhou said:

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.

 

I grown both the green and the purple in my garden They taste the same. Very decorative plant. Every year, they self-seed. 

dcarch

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Now I come to what is one of the top two favourite greens round here.

 

Brassica juncea

 

Mustard greens, leaf mustard, Chinese mustard, Indian mustard, Oriental mustard, vegetable mustard, gai choy. Take your pick.

 

Most commonly 芥菜  (Mand: jiè cài; Cant: gaai3 coi3) but also sometimes 大菜* (Mand: dà cài; Cant:  daai6 coi3),  大芥  (Mand: dà jiè; Cant: daai6 gaai3) among others, in Chinese.

 

jiecai.thumb.jpg.33b4cd049fe78e41ac96d307359a6f5b.jpg

 

It is stir fried with garlic, chopped and mixed with pork for jiaozi and wonton fillings etc, used in hot pots and soups. A favourite soup round these parts is clam and leaf mustard soup - 车螺芥菜汤 (Mand: chē luó jiè cài tāng). So popular, in fact, that many supermarkets pre-pack their clams with the vegetable.

 

1880609209_clamandmustardgreensoup.thumb.jpg.31c408a6b2023c2ff5c02029a162fd6b.jpg

 

Leaf mustard, as the name suggests, has a strong, but not unpleasant flavour. Much of this pungency is lost with excessive cooking.

 

The tuber and stems of this mustard plant are also, often pickled. The best-known example is probably 榨菜 (Mand: zhà cài; Cant: zaa3 zoi3) from Sichuan. This is the salted tuber which is then steeped in chilli paste and allowed to ferment. Similar to kimchi, but spicier. It is used in several noodle dishes such as dan-dan noodles, and also as a condiment with rice.

 

zhacai.thumb.jpg.c98c99b731d528d4a360dcc1bd50252c.jpg

Zhacai

 

Also common is 雪菜 (Mand: xuě cài; Cant: syut3 coi3) , literally 'snow vegetable'. This is salt fermented mustard greens. The leaves are chopped and salted with sea salt and left to pickle in the brine produced from the salt and the vegetable's own juices.

 

snow2.thumb.jpg.4291811f15717ed49187386e86912d66.jpg

 

Locally, we have this pickled vegetable made by the Zhuang ethnic minority** which also uses the mustard plant.

 

225430300_Zhuangpickledvegetable.thumb.jpg.cedbeb8bc19ac6ccbc09058eeb85b802.jpg

 

* 大菜 (Mand: dà cài; Cant:  daai6 coi3) is also the name for 'agar', the seaweed derived thickener.

** Minority in China; majority in Guangxi. They are the largest ethnic minority in China and most live here in Guangxi. Many of my friends here are Zhuang.

 

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Ipomoea aquatica

 

Next is what I'm sure is the most popular. In every restaurant you hear people asking the wait staff "有什么青菜 (yǒu shén me qīng cài)? What greens do you have?" The answer always includes, or may even be limited to "空心菜  (Mand: kōng xīn cài; Cant: hung1 sam1 coi3)."

 

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This one also probably has the most alternative names. In English , water spinach, river spinach, morning glory, water morning glory, water convolvulus, Chinese spinach, Chinese Watercress, Chinese convolvulus, swamp cabbage,  ong choy or kangkong.

 

In Mandarin Chinese, 空心菜  (kōng xīn cài), 通菜 (tōng cài), 通心菜  (tōng xīn cài), 壅菜 (yōng cài), 瓮菜 (wèng cài), 应菜 (yìng cài), 藤菜 (téng cài), 瓮菜及葛菜 (wèng cài jí gé cài), among others.

 

空心菜  (Mand: kōng xīn cài; Cant: hung1 sam1 coi3) literally translates as 'hollow heart vegetable' to reflect its hollow stems.

 

kongxincai2.thumb.jpg.02b2250f80457e0fafdbb18a5cdb0292.jpg

 

Mildly flavoured. this one is, like so many, simply stir fried with garlic and maybe chilli, preferably in lard.

 

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Nasturtium officinale

 

This is another one which I never associated with Chinese cuisine until I came here. It seems the Chinese agree with me. The most  common name is 西洋菜 (Mand: xī yáng cài; Cant: sai1 joeng4 coi3), which simply means "Western vegetable'.

 

What we are talking about is watercress. Despite the Latin name, this has no relationship to the flowers commonly referred to as nasturtiums.

 

Alternative Chinese names are 豆瓣菜 (Mand: dòu bàn cài; Cant:  dau6 baan6*2) and 水田芥 (Mand: shuǐ tián jiè; Cant: seoi2 tin4 gaai3), the latter meaning 'paddy field mustard'.

 

In Cantonese, 西洋菜 (Mand: xī yáng cài; Cant: sai1 joeng4 coi3) is also slang for 'foreign girl or young woman '. The things you learn on eGullet!

 

watercress.thumb.jpg.da36f32e7e802fda9b7a571dd4cc0c54.jpg

 

It is mainly fried with garlic, like so many greens, or used in soups, particularly those made from pork bones. I have never seen it in salads or seen a bowl of green watercress soup like I know (and make).

 

However it also comes dried to add to soups, and even with all the ingredients you need except water is a 'soup mix' pack. I've never gone there.

 

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Dried Watercress

 

561370265_WatercressSoupMix.thumb.jpg.60510dc47f1f2b9c28f5cb21a221751f.jpg

Watercress soup mix

 

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Came across a slightly different variety of round cabbage, this morning.

 

铁头白菜/鐵頭白菜 (Mand: tiě tóu bāo cài; Cant: tit3 tou2 baau1 coi3), literally iron (or hard) head cabbage. Mr Google knows nothing about it and so, neither do I. I don't suppose it is much different from the regular ones.

 

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Dicliptera Chinensis

 

Chinese foldwing is a Chinese herb/vegetable. Known locally as 羊肝菜 (Mand: yáng gān cài; Cant: joeng4  gon1 coi3), literally ‘sheep liver vegetable’, it is also known as 猪肝菜 (Mand: zhū gān cài; Cant: zyu1 gon1 coi3)or ‘pig’s liver vegetable’  among several other names. Despite this liverish nomenclature, it is used as a herb in traditional Chinese medicine to ‘strengthen’ the  kidneys, as well as for colds and fevers and “men’s problems”, whatever they may be.

 

It is also used stir fried as a green vegetable or in soups.

 

1703177907_Chinesefoldwing-DiclipteraChinensis.thumb.jpg.44dfe36ce2ed42b2e8dedaec3b6eee98.jpg

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Time now for onions and related items.

 

What we call onions is not always what the Chinese call onions. The base word for 'onion' in Chinese is 葱/蔥 (Mand: cōng; Cant: cung1), but used on its own, it refers not to what you may call an onion, but to a 'leek'.

 

What I call an onion is referred to as 洋葱/洋蔥 (Mand: yáng cōng; Cant: joeng4 cung1). They are common enough here, but 20 years ago they were very difficult to find. We nearly always only get red onions, but occasionally white onions turn up (as they did last week for a few days).

 

Onions.thumb.jpg.ad154aa3348c8f171d8c8b33f56d2eb2.jpg

 

The next few entries will help us 'know our onions', Chinese style. There will be tears before bedtime.

   

 

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Allium Chinense

 

荞头/蕎頭 (Mand: qiáo tóu; Cant: kiu4 tau4) are also known in English as Chinese bulbous onions, Chinese onion,[Chinese scallion, glittering chive, Japanese scallion, Jiangxi scallion, and Oriental onion.

 

They are mildly flavoured.

 

62801022_Chinesebulbousonion-aliumchininsis.thumb.jpg.3edeaf72f54ae9c64467bb42ca328280.jpg

 

The bulbs are also often pickled and served at the start of banquets and wedding feasts to keep you going until all the guests arrive. I use the pickled onions a lot in a non-Chinese way - with cheese and in sandwiches. Good with chicken liver pâté, too. I have no respect.

 

185772626_Pickledonions.thumb.jpg.0260e25cdaef5766405e0ec780949c5c.jpg

 

 

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Allium ampeloprasum

 

These are, of course, what I, and probably you, call leeks. One of my favourite vegetables.

 

leeks1024.thumb.jpg.5046ba828e65ae878e588d632b20b77b.jpg

 

In my local supermarkets, they are 大葱/大蔥 (Mand: dà cōng; Cant: daai6 cung1), which means 'big onion'. There are also what are sometimes known as Chinese leeks. I'll get to them tomorrow.

 

 

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Look what I've done to my local store in order to bring you this topic!

 

morning.thumb.jpg.53c820f02341ba557a823c3153381dcd.jpg

9 am.

 

 

empty.thumb.jpg.3e836bff8cb93349ca756fee0d0f0f45.jpg

5 pm.

 

Actually, it's not down to me or you. It's like this every day. This is one of five vegetable shelving areas. They all look much the same.

 

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Allium tuberosum

 

韭菜 (Mand: jiǔ cài; Cant: gau2 coi3) is known by several names in English including garlic chives, Oriental garlic, Asian chives, Chinese chives, Chinese leek etc.

 

jiucai.thumb.jpg.84e42af09c950ec7e0a0eec259cd4895.jpg

 

These also come in two other forms. Those above are the leafy stems. Left to grow a little. they develop flower buds. At this stage, they are sold as 韭花 (Mand: jiǔ huā; Cant: gau2 faa1) where 花 means 'flower'.

 

1227048793_jiuhua.thumb.jpg.1166f6d4dc8854f9f9886554f3314793.jpg

 

Then we have 韭黄 (Mand: jiǔ huáng; Cant: gau2 wong4), which are the stems  of the same plant, but grown under reduced light conditions so that they do not develop the green colour, but are yellow, the meaning of 黄. To my palate and nose, this technique also increases the garlic flavour and scent considerably. This is a good thing in my book.

 

533909591_garlicchives.thumb.jpg.ff86435a4211e56d58e75baab0fa153f.jpg

 

All of these forms are used to finish off stir fries and also frequently added to various forms of dumplings, especially jiaozi. I've seen the green stems pickled like kimchi and been served the yellow ones just as a vegetable side dish.

 

Also, the green stems (first picture) are often grilled over charcoal at road side stalls and sold for next to nothing. You can see them in the image below, taken at a roadside grill place in Nanning, Guangxi.

 

bbq.thumb.jpg.4d592560f15c97516372b3863289f1a7.jpg

 

Finally, they are used in pancakes in the same manner as scallion pancakes.

 

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    • By liuzhou
      Chinese food must be among the most famous in the world. Yet, at the same time, the most misunderstood.

      I feel sure (hope) that most people here know that American-Chinese cuisine, British-Chinese cuisine, Indian-Chinese cuisine etc are, in huge ways, very different from Chinese-Chinese cuisine and each other. That's not what I want to discuss.

      Yet, every day I still come across utter nonsense on YouTube videos and Facebook about the "real" Chinese cuisine, even from ethnically Chinese people (who have often never been in China). Sorry YouTube "influencers", but sprinkling soy sauce or 5-spice powder on your cornflakes does not make them Chinese!
       
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      That said, in this topic, I want to attempt to debunk some of the more prevalent myths. Not trying to start World War III.

      When I moved to China from the UK 25 years ago, I had my preconceptions. They were all wrong. Sweet and sour pork with egg fried rice was reported to be the second favourite dish in Britain, and had, of course, to be preceded by a plate of prawn/shrimp crackers. All washed down with a lager or three.

      Yet, in that quarter of a century, I've seldom seen a prawn cracker. And egg fried rice is usually eaten as a quick dish on its own, not usually as an accompaniment to main courses. Every menu featured a starter of prawn/shrimp toast which I have never seen in mainland China - just once in Hong Kong.

      But first, one myth needs to be dispelled. The starving Chinese! When I was a child I was encouraged to eat the particularly nasty bits on the plate by being told that the starving Chinese would lap them up. My suggestion that we could post it to them never went down too well. At that time (the late fifties) there was indeed a terrible famine in China (almost entirely manmade (Maomade)).

      When I first arrived in China, it was after having lived in Soviet Russia and I expected to see the same long lines of people queuing up to buy nothing very much in particular. Instead, on my first visit to a market (in Hunan Province), I was confronted with a wider range of vegetables, seafood, meat and assorted unidentified frying objects than I have ever seen anywhere else. And it was so cheap I couldn't convert to UK pounds or any other useful currency.
       
      I'm going to start with some of the simpler issues - later it may get ugly!

      1. Chinese people eat everything with chopsticks.
       

       
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      Anyway, with that very mild beginning, I'll head off and think which on my long list will be next.

      Thanks to @KennethT for advice re American-Chinese food.
       
       
    • By liuzhou
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       窝窝头
       
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      Form the dough into six even-sized balls and rub between the palms until smooth and round. Flatten slightly, then use your thumb to press the dough into a nest shape.
       
      Steam covered for 30-35 minutes.
       
      Note: The flours used vary a lot. Corn or sorghum flours are very popular, but I don't like corn and sorghum isn't the easiest to find here in southern China. Use what you like, but the overall quantity for this recipe should be 500 grams. It has been suggested that pure corn flour is too sticky, so probably best to mix it with regular wheat flour.
       
      They freeze well.
       
      Recipe adapted from 念念不忘的面食  by 刘哲菲 (Unforgettable Wheat Foods by Liu Zhefei). This isn't a direct translation, but retelling of the gist. Any errors are mine. Not Ms. Liu's.
    • By liuzhou
      Big Plate Chicken - 大盘鸡
       

       
      This very filling dish of chicken and potato stew is from Xinjiang province in China's far west, although it is said to have been invented by a visitor from Sichuan. In recent years, it has become popular in cities across China, where it is made using a whole chicken which is chopped, with skin and on the bone, into small pieces suitable for easy chopstick handling. If you want to go that way, any Asian market should be able to chop the bird for you. Otherwise you may use boneless chicken thighs instead.

      Ingredients

      Boneless skinless chicken thighs  6

      Light soy sauce

      Dark soy sauce

      Shaoxing wine

      Cornstarch or similar. I use potato starch.

      Vegetable oil (not olive oil)

      Star anise, 4

      Cinnamon, 1 stick

      Bay leaves, 5 or 6

      Fresh ginger, 6 coin sized slices

      Garlic.  5 cloves, roughly chopped

      Sichuan peppercorns,  1 tablespoon

      Whole dried red chiles,   6 -10  (optional). If you can source the Sichuan chiles known as Facing Heaven Chiles, so much the better.

      Potatoes 2 or 3 medium sized. peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

      Carrot. 1,  thinly sliced

      Dried wheat noodles.  8 oz. Traditionally, these would be a long, flat thick variety. I've use Italian tagliatelle successfully.    

      Red bell pepper. 1 cut into chunks

      Green bell pepper, 1 cut into chunks

      Salt

      Scallion, 2 sliced.
         
      Method

      First, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and marinate in 1 1/2 teaspoons light soy sauce, 3 teaspoons of Shaoxing and 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch. Set aside for about twenty minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

      Heat the wok and add three tablespoons cooking oil. Add the ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, Sichuan peppercorns and chiles. Fry on a low heat for a  minute or so. If they look about to burn, splash a little water into your wok. This will lower the temperature slightly. Add the chicken and turn up the heat. Continue frying until the meat is nicely seared, then add the potatoes and carrots. Stir fry a minute more then add 2 teaspoons of the dark soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the light soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of the Shaoxing wine along with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium. Cover and cook for around 15 minutes until the potatoes are done.

      While the main dish is cooking, cook the noodles separately according to the packet instructions.  Reserve  some of the noodle cooking water and drain.

      When the chicken and potatoes are done, you may add a little of the noodle water if the dish appears on the dry side. It should be saucy, but not soupy. Add the bell peppers and cook for three to four minutes more. Add scallions. Check seasoning and add some salt if it needs it. It may not due to the soy sauce and Shaoxing.

      Serve on a large plate for everyone to help themselves from. Plate the noodles first, then cover with the meat and potato. Enjoy.
       
    • By liuzhou
      Clam Soup with Mustard Greens - 车螺芥菜汤
       

       
      This is a popular, light but peppery soup available in most restaurants here (even if its not listed on the menu). Also, very easy to make at home.

      Ingredients

      Clams. (around 8 to 10 per person. Some restaurants are stingy with the clams, but I like to be more generous). Fresh live clams are always used in China, but if, not available, I suppose frozen clams could be used. Not canned. The most common clams here are relatively small. Littleneck clams may be a good substitute in terms of size.
       
      Stock. Chicken, fish or clam stock are preferable. Stock made from cubes or bouillon powder is acceptable, although fresh is always best.

      Mustard Greens. (There are various types of mustard green. Those used here are  芥菜 , Mandarin: jiè cài; Cantonese: gai choy). Use a good handful per person. Remove the thick stems, to be used in another dish.)

      Garlic. (to taste)

      Chile. (One or two fresh hot red chiles are optional).

      Salt.

      MSG (optional). If you have used a stock cube or bouillon powder for the stock, omit the MSG. The cubes and power already have enough.

      White pepper (freshly ground. I recommend adding what you consider to be slightly too much pepper, then adding half that again. The soup should be peppery, although of course everything is variable to taste.)

      Method

      Bring your stock to a boil. Add salt to taste along with MSG if using.

      Finely chop the garlic and chile if using. Add to stock and simmer for about five minutes.

      Make sure all the clams are tightly closed, discarding any which are open - they are dead and should not be eaten.

      The clams will begin to pop open fairly quickly. Remove the open ones as quickly as possible and keep to one side while the others catch up. One or two clams may never open. These should also be discarded. When you have all the clams fished out of the boiling stock, roughly the tear the mustard leaves in two and drop them into the stock. Simmer for one minute. Put all the clams back into the stock and when it comes back to the boil, take off the heat and serve.
    • By liuzhou
      Beef with Bitter Melon - 牛肉苦瓜
       

       
      The name may be off-putting to many people, but Chinese people do have an appreciation for bitter tastes and anyway, modern cultivars of this gourd are less bitter than in the past. Also, depending on how it's cooked, the bitterness can be mitigated.
       
      I'll admit that I wasn't sure at first, but have grown to love it.

      Note: "Beef with Bitter Melon (牛肉苦瓜 )" or "Bitter Melon with Beef (苦瓜牛肉)"? One Liuzhou restaurant I know has both on its menu! In Chinese, the ingredient listed first is the one there is most of, so, "beef with bitter melon" is mainly beef, whereas "bitter melon with beef" is much more a vegetable dish with just a little beef. This recipe is for the beefier version. To make the other version, just half the amount of beef and double the amount of melon.

      Ingredients

      Beef. One pound. Flank steak works best. Slice thinly against the grain.

      Bitter Melon. Half a melon. You can use the other half in a soup or other dish. Often available in Indian markets or supermarkets.
       

       
      Salted Black Beans. One tablespoon. Available in packets from Asian markets and supermarkets, these are salted, fermented black soy beans. They are used as the basis for 'black bean sauce', but we are going to be making our own sauce!

      Garlic. 6 cloves

      Cooking oil. Any vegetable oil except olive oil

      Shaoxing wine. See method

      Light soy sauce. One tablespoon

      Dark soy sauce. One teaspoon

      White pepper. See method

      Sesame oil. See method

      Method

      Marinate the beef in a 1/2 tablespoon of light soy sauce with a splash of Shaoxing wine along with a teaspoon or so of cornstarch or similar (I use potato starch). Stir well and leave for 15-30 minutes.

      Cut the melon(s) in half lengthwise and, using a teaspoon, scrape out all the seeds and pith. The more pith you remove, the less bitter the dish will be. Cut the melon into crescents about 1/8th inch wide.

      Rinse the black beans and drain. Crush them with the blade of your knife, then chop finely. Finely chop the garlic.

      Stir fry the meat in a tablespoon of oil over a high heat until done. This should take less than a minute. Remove and set aside.

      Add another tablespoon of oil and reduce heat to medium. fry the garlic and black beans until fragrant then add the bitter melon. Continue frying until the melon softens. then add a tablespoon of Shaoxing wine and soy sauces. Finally sprinkle on white pepper to taste along with a splash of sesame oil. Return the meat to the pan and mix everything well.

      Note: If you prefer the dish more saucy, you can add a tablespoon or so of water with the soy sauces.

      Serve with plained rice and a stir-fried green vegetable of choice.
       
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