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Chinese Herbs and Spices


liuzhou
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8 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

I cant think of anything specific. It doesn't have a strong flavour like sat, mint or coriader leaf / cilantro. More subtle and with slight citrusy notes. Also, a bit mushroomy.

 

Sorry. not a very adequate answer, I know. Next time I use it, I'll pay more attention.

Thanks. Not an easy question to answer.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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21. 艾草 (ài cǎo) – Mugwort – Artemisia verlotiorum

 

2592px-Artemisia_verlotiorum_-_Botanischer_Garten_Mainz_IMG_5511.thumb.jpg.b45a5a1544004e9f2a6f06a2cdcfb26b.jpg

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

 

艾草 (ài cǎo) is Chinese mugwort (ugly word!), a relation to the sunflower, but not so pretty. It grows all over Asia. The bitter leaves are, to my knowledge, only used in one culinary way.

 

763503566_Mugwortcakes.thumb.jpg.5caca3b214643b25de63d73a8e7ad9cf.jpg

 

These cakes, known as 艾叶粑 (ài yè bā) and which are popular here, are made from a mixture of Chinese mugwort, which supplies the colour and flavour, and two type of rice flour which supplies the bulk. The manufacturing process is complicated but involves washing then boiling the mugwort leaves. The boiled leaves are processed with lye to remove mugwort’s natural bitterness and to soften them. The leaves are then sweetened with sugar and mixed with a 50-50 mixture of rice flour and sticky rice flour to make a dough which is formed into little cakes two to three inches in diameter, then steamed for around 30 minutes.


They taste sweet and herbal. I was sceptical, but ended up liking them. Usually sold by street vendors, when in season around June. The fresh herb is available in markets at the same time, otherwise how could the vendors make them!.

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22. 决明子 (jué míng zǐ) – 'Cassia Seeds' –  Senna obtsifoluia

 

2060949542_Cassiaseeds.thumb.jpg.ec6cb41ffa52ce97d40880ed3aa577f1.jpg

 

We looked at cassia, the cinnamon-like spice, back here.

 

Also, sold are ‘cassia seeds’. These however, are from a totally different plant, Senna obtsifoluia. In Chinese these are 决明子 (jué míng zǐ) , but the locals get as confused as everyone else and I’ve quite often seen them mislabelled as 肉桂子 (ròu guì zǐ) , which does mean cassia seed’

 

They are used primarily to make a ‘tea’ and, as usual, are credited with all sorts of medicinal properties. They are a mild laxative and are said to be good for the eyes. Not necessarily both at the same time.

 

These so-called ‘cassia seeds’ or ‘cassia seed’ tea should not be consumed by pregnant women or by anyone suffering from blood pressure difficulties.

 

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17 minutes ago, Tropicalsenior said:

I would be, too. They are so ugly

 

That may just be be my photography. I'll post a better one next time I see them, but that won't be for another year.

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23. 大麻 (dà má) – Cannabis – Cannabis Sativa

 

504161848_hempseed2.thumb.jpg.349628743e81048eb85b6d54614a0985.jpg

Cannabis (hemp) seed

 

Given China’s much vaunted zero-tolerance in relationship to illegal drugs, there are exceptions. Sure importing sizeable quantities of heroin or meta-amphetamine etc. can and does lead to the death penalty. In fact, all executions in Guangxi are carried out right here in Liuzhou and have included a number of foreigners. But…

 

I recently started a topic, A Glimpse of the Dai People and their Food, in which I showed pictures of a countryside market mainly used by the ethnic minority Dai people. That market openly sold cannabis for the smoking of. I did not partake.

 

Bama village, not far from me in north-western Guangxi is well-known throughout China for its being a longevity cluster. The locals and many medical experts who study such things attribute the 5-times average number of centenarians in the village to their lifestyle and particularly their diet, which is rather simple and consists mainly of fresh, organic vegetables and hemp (cannabis)! They use cannabis oil for cooking and add the seeds to their congees and other dishes. We are told the local cannabis has a negligible amount of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive element of the drug. They would say that, though!

 

1181315454_CannabisSativaL.(Oil).thumb.jpg.d5a6dd4b63550123a8f38194f8060b49.jpg

I bought this in a state-owned department store in Liuzhou

 

This has led thousands of people from all over China descending on the village to eat the local food, thinking that they will then live forever. The local government have embraced this and turned the place into a longevity theme park. They even sell the longevity tourists dumb things like Bama eggs and Bama water, which are just regular eggs and water. So sad. They have destroyed the place.

 

1582297785_bamaeggs.jpg.c84e88bd5f8253866bf21d68d7123a5b.jpgBama Eggs

 

1260496709_bamawater.thumb.jpg.f2326b20f17312695e15df2ffc012157.jpg

Bama Water

 

This 2013 Guardian article describes the start of the process. Things have only gotten worse since it was written. Note that the village is in north-western Guangxi, not southern Guangxi as the article claims.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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24. 七里香 (qī lǐ xiāng) – Orange Jasmine – Murraya paniculata

 

1906201803_.thumb.jpg.4f15cf8f00322d56fb4d8682cec5a053.jpg

 

Known in English as orange jasmine, orange jessamine, china box or mock orange among other names, this is the unopened flower buds of a small tree South Asia, Southeast Asia and Australia. In Chinese, it has at least 19 alternative names that I have found. I’m going with 七里香 (qī lǐ xiāng) as it seems to be the most common.

 

Despite the name ‘orange jasmine’, it is unrelated to jasmine, but is in the same family as ‘curry leaf’ as used in Indian cuisine. Not that it tastes anything like curry. In fact, it is sweet, mild and floral in taste with a subtle citrusy flavour. It is used to flavour fish and white meats.

 

The fruit is apparently edible too, but I’ve never seen it here. Opened flowers are used in making floral teas. And, I hardly need saying, it is used in TCM.

 

547333421_2.thumb.jpg.0ce5fd5e0c1d39bc39a7fca3ec8db61c.jpg

 

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25. 桂花 (guì huā) – Osmanthus – Osmanthus fragrans

 

Osmanthus_fragrans.jpg.cf5b6dcd45612651e171cf801c46c405.jpg

Osmanthus flowers

 

The Chinese character at the top of this post is the one I see most often. I see hundreds of examples everyday. Even if I don’t go out the house, which is rare, I see it in my study where I am sitting now. On the wall beside me is this poster. It is the second character in the large font.

 

2130430423_baguidageposter.thumb.jpg.7c405c38b3216693d7ea720ad38b89bf.jpg

 

This character, (guì) is pronounced ‘gway’ and means osmanthus and if you live in Guangxi, it becomes part of your daily life. Every province and major city’s name has a one character abbreviation which may or not be part of their name. For example, Hunan is (xiāng) which seems unrelated as does (hù) for Shanghai. Sichuan is (chuān), which is the second character in Sichuan (四川 – sì chuān), whereas Gansu (甘肃 – gān sù ) uses the first character (gān).

 

These abbreviation characters appear on every registration number plate, hence where I see it 100s of times a day.

 

1242394800_numberplate.thumb.jpg.98f055f6a25b21c0a9d53cf6a44d5850.jpg

Random car number plate in Liuzhou

means Guangxi; B is Liuzhou, the second largest city. Then a random combination of numbers or letters. The most prized number in Guangxi is 桂A 88888. The anonymous owner of 京A 88888, the top Beijing number is said to have paid over 1,000,000 元 ($154,500) for the number. I hope they threw the car in for free.

 

So, where does come from and why does it mean Guangxi? And why am I going on about it?

The root meaning of here is is ‘osmanthus’, an evergreen shrub or, round here most often, a tree growing up to 12 metres / 40 feet tall. In late summer and autumn (i.e. now), it bears small whitish / yellow flowers which are highly scented and much prized. My local parks are full of these trees and they line many roads. People sell small bunches of the flowers on the street to be used as nosegays.

 

578209942_OsmanthusFragrans.thumb.jpg.5de3202e2c029db5b1897c545dd1cfc6.jpg

Osmanthus tree in my local park

 

The nearby famous, tourist city of Guilin is 桂林 (guì lín) in Chinese and means 'osmanthus forest'. There are a lot of the trees there, too. Guilin was the capital of Guangxi from 997 to 1950, when it changed to Nanning. However, the part of its name continued to stand for Guangxi before being adopted officially.

 

But more importantly the flowers are edible. They are used to flavour many food stuffs. Here are just some.

 

It is added to both black and green teas to give them a scent and flavour, just as with Jasmine tea.



guihuacha.thumb.jpg.072a03ae4c64eb87cf3c171738501a31.jpg

Osmanthus tea

 

But, it is also sold as pure dried leaves and also described as osmanthus tea, to make a floral tisane.

 

318938056_osmanthustea.jpg.f7b3628fa89b72dea39777fbbdc622d5.jpg

Osmanthus 'tea'

 

Then we have the alcoholic uses.

 

Guihuajiu.thumb.jpg.0c442068c3070c43680294fc21aa8f0d.jpg
Osmanthus flavoured white spirits.
 

223576911_osmanthusbeer.thumb.jpg.57c7e0ecaf8163c6c75389ae03aed6b0.jpg

Osmanthus beer

 

606357394_osmanthuswine.thumb.jpg.5b7860fb459192c3fe4f5f1d93ec2a15.jpg

Osmanthus cooking wine

 

and finally, something to eat

 

1684621737_osmanthushoney.thumb.jpg.6e7a2b35a63360e1d4cd9c04d935dcd1.jpg

Osmanthus honey

 

1641532521_osmanthusjam.thumb.jpg.25dc4c3622b2c0a7ebed80ab832ef4e4.jpg

Osmanthus jam

 

1606677831_Osmanthuscake.thumb.jpg.800e609ff402f2a02cd018f583e979e4.jpg

Osmanthus cakes

 

So, I hear you ask, what does it taste like? It has a fresh, floral and fruity flavour (naturally), reminiscent of apricot and peaches.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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5 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

So, I hear you ask, what does it taste like? It has a fresh, floral and fruity flavour (naturally), reminiscent of apricot and peaches.

I did a search hoping to be able to tell you where @Kerry Bealand I enjoyed a dessert flavoured with it. Apparently I did not post about it but I remember Kerry chasing all over the Golden Horseshoe looking for the ingredients to make this dessert. Her memory is always better than mine. Perhaps she will chime in. 

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52 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

24. 桂花 (guì huā) – Osmanthus – Osmanthus fragrans

 

Osmanthus_fragrans.jpg.cf5b6dcd45612651e171cf801c46c405.jpg

Osmanthus flowers

 

The Chinese character at the top of this post is the one I see most often. I see hundreds of examples everyday. Even if I don’t go out the house, which is rare, I see it in my study where I am sitting now. On the wall beside me is this poster. It is the second character in the large font.

 

2130430423_baguidageposter.thumb.jpg.7c405c38b3216693d7ea720ad38b89bf.jpg

 

This character, (guì) is pronounced ‘gway’ and means osmanthus and if you live in Guangxi, it becomes part of your daily life. Every province and major city’s name has a one character abbreviation which may or not be part of their name. For example, Hunan is (xiāng) which seems unrelated as does (hù) for Shanghai. Sichuan is (chuān), which is the second character in Sichuan (四川 – sì chuān), whereas Gansu (甘肃 – gān sù ) uses the first character (gān).

 

These abbreviation characters appear on every registration number plate, hence where I see it 100s of times a day.

1242394800_numberplate.thumb.jpg.98f055f6a25b21c0a9d53cf6a44d5850.jpg

Random car number plate in Liuzhou

means Guangxi; B is Liuzhou, the second largest city. Then a random combination of numbers or letters. The most prized number in Guangxi is 桂A 88888. The anonymous owner of 京A 88888, the top Beijing number is said to have paid over 1,000,000 元 ($154,500) for the number. I hope they threw the car in for free.

 

So, where does come from and why does it mean Guangxi? And why am I going on about it?

The root meaning of here is is ‘osmanthus’, an evergreen shrub or, round here most often, a tree growing up to 12 metres / 40 feet tall. In late summer and autumn (i.e. now), it bears small whitish / yellow flowers which are highly scented and much prized. My local parks are full of these trees and they line many roads. People sell small bunches of the flowers on the street to be used as nosegays.

 

578209942_OsmanthusFragrans.thumb.jpg.5de3202e2c029db5b1897c545dd1cfc6.jpg

Osmanthus tree in my local park

 

The nearby famous, tourist city of Guilin is 桂林 (guì lín) in Chinese and means 'osmanthus forest'. There are a lot of the trees there, too. Guilin was the capital of Guangxi from 997 to 1950, when it changed to Nanning. However, the part of its name continued to stand for Guangxi before being adopted officially.

 

But more importantly the flowers are edible. They are used to flavour many food stuffs. Here are just some.

 

It is added to both black and green teas to give them a scent and flavour, just as with Jasmine tea.

guihuacha.thumb.jpg.072a03ae4c64eb87cf3c171738501a31.jpg

Osmanthus tea

 

But, it is also sold as pure dried leaves and also described as osmanthus tea, to make a floral tisane.

 

318938056_osmanthustea.jpg.f7b3628fa89b72dea39777fbbdc622d5.jpg

Osmanthus 'tea'

 

Then we have the alcoholic uses.

 

Guihuajiu.thumb.jpg.0c442068c3070c43680294fc21aa8f0d.jpg
Osmanthus flavoured white spirits.
 

223576911_osmanthusbeer.thumb.jpg.57c7e0ecaf8163c6c75389ae03aed6b0.jpg

Osmanthus beer

 

606357394_osmanthuswine.thumb.jpg.5b7860fb459192c3fe4f5f1d93ec2a15.jpg

Osmanthus cooking wine

 

and finally, something to eat

 

1684621737_osmanthushoney.thumb.jpg.6e7a2b35a63360e1d4cd9c04d935dcd1.jpg

Osmanthus honey

 

1641532521_osmanthusjam.thumb.jpg.25dc4c3622b2c0a7ebed80ab832ef4e4.jpg

Osmanthus jam

 

1606677831_Osmanthuscake.thumb.jpg.800e609ff402f2a02cd018f583e979e4.jpg

Osmanthus cakes

 

So, I hear you ask, what does it taste like? It has a fresh, floral and fruity flavour (naturally), reminiscent of apricot and peaches.

 

here, a common osmanthus dish I see in dim sum restaurants is glutinous rice balls filled with black sesame, floating in osmanthus syrup.  My wife and I love black sesame anything and while the osmanthus syrup is usually not that sweet (which is good), it's not necessarily something I'd order if it didn't have the black sesame.

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4 minutes ago, KennethT said:

here, a common osmanthus dish I see in dim sum restaurants is glutinous rice balls filled with black sesame, floating in osmanthus syrup.  My wife and I love black sesame anything and while the osmanthus syrup is usually not that sweet (which is good), it's not necessarily something I'd order if it didn't have the black sesame.

 

Yes. I've seen those here, too.

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26. 夜香花 (yè xiāng huā) – Tonkin Jasmine – Telosma cordata

 

yexianghua.thumb.jpg.a867380f75c95fc427674b30a782613d.jpg

 

夜香 (yè xiāng) is a creeping vine native to southern China (i.e. here), Vietnam and northern Thailand, but introduced elsewhere. In Vietnamese it is thiên lý and in Thai ดอกขจร. In English it is known as Tonkin jasmine as well as Pakalana vine, cowslip creeper Chinese violet and cowslip creeper. The name Tonkin comes from the Tonkin bay which lies at the Guangxi, China / Vietnam border The whole plant is edible, but it is the flowers which are of most interest to most people. Like the 'orange jasmine' above, it is no relation to true jasmine.

 

The small golden yellow flowers are very fragrant and have a lemony taste. The flowers can be eaten as vegetable dish to accompany other dishes, but is more usually added to recipes as a kind of seasoning. A favourite, both in China and Vietnam, is stir fried beef with Tonkin jasmine. 夜香花炒牛肉 (yè xiāng huā chǎo niú ròu) in Chinese; Thiên Lý Xào Thịt Bò in Vietnamese.

 

But my and many people’s favourite way to use them is with eggs. Scrambled eggs or steamed eggs. I have even made Tonkin jasmine omelettes in the past.

 

1680537522_scrambledeggswithTonkinjasmine.thumb.jpg.6791abcc274c5cceee24c468589e6f33.jpg

Tonkin jasmine with scrambled eggs

 

Less often they are added to soups.

 

425469060_ChickenPigsBloodandTonkinJasmineSoup.thumb.jpg.4223e7ff9ed40ce4e2573c92e90fab0d.jpg

Chicken and Pig's Blood Soup with Tonkin Jasmine

 

There is a video recipe for the beef dish below. The video is Vietnamese, but the dish is identical to how it is cooked here.

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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27. (chá) – Tea – Camellia sinensis

 

tea.thumb.jpg.87631e7aed62cadf7b09a1d63ce7bf0b.jpg

Tea in Liuzhou market

 

I guess most people don’t think of tea as a herb, but of course, it is and aside from making a refreshing cuppa, it is used just like any other herb. Both green and black teas are used. Note 'black tea' is known in China as 红茶 (hóng chá) or 'red tea', which I venture to suggest, is more sensible.

 

Tea, as I’m sure everyone knows is native to China; specifically the south-west of the country, especially Sichuan, Yunnan provinces and Tibet. There is credible evidence that a cup of tea was not unknown in China in the 3rd century AD, although it was really during the Tang dynasty (618 – 907) that its use became widespread and spread beyond China’s borders. China remains the largest producer with around double the cultivation of its nearest rival, India.

 

I’m not going to dwell on its use for the popular drink; I’m not really a tea drinker. Instead, I want to look at other culinary applications.

 

1580757921_LiuzhouQingmingTea3.thumb.jpg.8c6778accd6349a7177bf7e0c375b6b1.jpg

Liuzhou's local tea

 

I’ll start with 抹茶 (mā chá). I guess most of you know matcha, even if you never use it. Almost every website* tells me this is Japanese. Wrong! Matcha (the Japanese transliteration), like so many other “Japanese” dishes (sushi, ramen, etc.), originated in China.  In 1191, during the Song dynasty (960–1279) tea was introduced to Japan along with that other “Japanese” favourite Zen Buddhism. Matcha and the “Japanese” tea ceremony are described in great detail in 禪苑清規 (chán yuàn qīngguī) or Chanyuan Qinggui (Rules of Purity for the Chan Monastery) by Chinese monk 長蘆宗賾 (cháng lú zōng zé), published in 1103 - nearly a century before any Japanese laid eyes on tea.

 

matcha.thumb.jpg.be19aa7ef9aaf72e85da7d778caa8a28.jpg

Matcha

 

Matcha later fell out of favour in China, but its use continued in Japan. In recent years, it has seen a resurgence in China, being used in many confectionery items and baked goods as well as drinks.

 

100953702_GreenTeaCakes.thumb.jpg.17b159033d88f7d393c5b1b2d7927fd2.jpg

Sticky rice, green tea and sesame seed cakes

 

But, it doesn’t stop there, tea leaves are used in everything from ice cream to stir-fries. It is used as the smoke source for smoked meats, especially duck. 樟茶鸭子 (zhāng chá yā zi) Sichuan tea-smoked duck is wonderful. It is a complicated dish to make at home, but Fuchsia Dunlop has a simplified recipe for home use in her The Food of Sichuan (eG-friendly Amazon.com link).  Lapsang Souchong (正山小种 - zhēng shān xiǎo zhǒng) makes a great rub or marinade ingredient. Its smoky flavour is a perfect, and more nuanced, substitute for liquid smoke.

 

One of my favourites, which I regularly make, is stir-fried shell-on shrimp with green tea, a speciality of Hunan, where they make it with freshwater shrimp from Dongting Lake. I use sea shrimp and the local tea. Or sometimes 龙井茶 (lóng jǐng chá), Dragon's Well tea from Longjing Village, Hangzhou, in China's eastern, Zhejiang province.

 

1054639552_prawnsgreentea.thumb.jpg.5084c5e940d921d4ccee1af88fb177bb.jpg

 

Deep-fried crunchy tea leaves are a good accompaniment to stir-fries and to rice porridge etc.

 

This website gives a number of very attractive recipes for cooking with tea - not specifically Chinese though.

 

*Most surprisingly, Wikipedia is one of the few which gets the origin correct, but then mucks it up by giving the wrong pronunciation for the Chinese name. But they all get that wrong! Oh well!

 

IMG_6707.thumb.jpg.6d02dae79bc5aab83cd63c2a5da9fde0.jpg

Tea terraces in Sanjiang, Liuzhou Prefecture

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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28. 山胡椒 shān hú jiāo – Litsea – Litsea cubeba (Lour.) Pers.

 

I have mentioned this elsewhere on eG before, but I do think it belongs here as well.

 

山胡椒 (shān hú jiāo), literally 'mountain peppers', are the seeds of a tree native to Guizhou and Hunan provinces of China. They also grow in Taiwan, where they have been introduced. Also known as 木姜子 (mù jiāng zǐ), literally 'tree ginger seeds').

 

1118419021_LitseaSeeds(1).thumb.jpg.b5f41fe19459e38d68075216043afe78.jpg

Dried Litsea Seeds

 

They are more usually seen dried, but even more often they are used to make 山胡椒油 (shān hú jiāo yóu) aka 木姜子油 (mù jiāng zǐ yóu), litsea oil.

 

Litsea Oil.jpg

Litsea oil

 

The seeds and are distinctly lemon scented like lemongrass, with notes of ginger and a mild pepperiness. The harvest begins in May and lasts all summer.

 

litsea2.thumb.jpg.6ee44de27da56827eaa18b7665436f21.jpg

Fresh Litsea Seeds

 

The oil is often used as a condiment. Fuchsia Dunlop notes in The Food of Sichuan (see previous post)  that although litsea is not Sichuanese, people in the SE of the province like to use it in dips and on the cold dishes Sichuan cuisine is famous for. The fresh seeds can be added to summer hot pots, but fresh seeds are rare, even here.

 

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

I guess most people don’t think of tea as a herb, but of course, it is and aside from making a refreshing cuppa, it is used just like any other herb. Both green and black teas are used. Note 'black tea' is known in China as 红茶 (hóng chá), which I venture to suggest, is more sensible.

 

"More sensible" because...?

(I double checked because I haven't yet finished my own cup of tea, but I don't see an explanation of the Chinese term or its innate logic)

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1 hour ago, chromedome said:

 

"More sensible" because...?

(I double checked because I haven't yet finished my own cup of tea, but I don't see an explanation of the Chinese term or its innate logic)

 

For the simple reason that the drink is more red than black. Brew some 'black' tea and pour it into a glass without cow juice and see what colour it is. China names it for the colour of the infusion; not the dried leaf.

 

Edited to note:  I did forget to translate 红茶. I have now edited original post.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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22 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

For the simple reason that the drink is more red than black. Brew some 'black' tea and pour it into a glass without cow juice and see what colour it is. China names it for the colour of the infusion; not the dried leaf.

 

Edited to note:  I did forget to translate 红茶. I have now edited original post.

There we go. :)

 

Many thanks.

 

ETA: I do drink mine without cow juice, and appreciate the colour.

Edited by chromedome (log)
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“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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29. 枸杞 (gǒuqǐ) – Goji – Lycium chinense

 

1780402605_gojiberries.thumb.jpg.61b64acdfaf1018e9a3b2d211937d4cb.jpg

 

Touted today as a ‘superfood’ by shamans and fakers exploiting the gullible, the leaves and berries of the goji shrub have been used in east Asian cooking and medicine for centuries. There is zero scientific evidence that they have any effect on health or disease.

 

The small red berries (Lycii fructus), also known as wolfberries,  are dried and added to rice porridges, soups and hotpots, but also used to make tisanes and are also made into wine, 枸杞酒 (gǒu qǐ jiǔ). The taste is mildly fruity, reminiscent of dried strawberry to my palate.

 

830332970_gojileaf2.thumb.jpg.74692efe7f95c349992f841927e2d548.jpg

Goji Leaf

 

More to my liking are the leaves Lycii herba. Known in Chinese as 枸杞菜 (gǒu qǐ cài, literally goji vegetable or 枸杞叶 (gǒu qǐ yè, literally 'goji leaf'), which is stir-fried or added to hot pots. The young stems are also edible, but more normally the leaves are stripped from older, woody stems.

 

1958659387_gojileaf1.thumb.jpg.6e882f5c7fda310eff519dae71dbf4d6.jpg

Goji Leaf

 

Less well known are these small black goji berries (黑枸杞 - hēi gǒu qǐ). Less than half the size of the red ones, these are more often used to make goji tea.

 

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Black goji berries

 

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Infused black goji berry tea 1

 

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Infused black goji berry tea 2

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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30. 砂仁 (shā rén) – Sand Kernels - Wurfbainia Villosa

 

777175924_(shrn)SandKernels-WurfbainiaVillosa.thumb.jpg.98ffc85eee74a39b00c6774526a11cd6.jpg

 

This is an unusual one. 砂仁 (shā rén) are the dried fruit pods of a plant, similar to cardamoms and in the ginger family. The plant is native to southern China and SE Asia.

 

The pods contain aromatic seeds which resemble a cross between cinnamon and ginger in taste. The pods are cracked before being added to hot-pots etc. They are also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

 

It is also occasionally used in some 5-spice mixes in Guangdong. Also used in milk teas in Taiwan.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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31. 龙须菜 (lóng xū cài) – Chayote Shoots – Sechium edule

 

1276077945_chayoteshoots2.thumb.jpg.bdd6764045b29468fa137fa3601b74cd.jpg

 

The picture above is of the leaves of chayote, the popular gourd known in Mandarin Chinese as 佛手瓜 (fó shǒu guā), meaning ‘Buddha’s palm’. In Australia it is ‘choko’, from the Cantonese 秋球 (Jyutping: cau1 kau4), meaning ‘autumn ball’. In the UK, Ireland and much of the Caribbean area it is 'christophene’. It is native to the Central Americas, but is now grown worldwide.

 

For most people in the west, only the gourd is eaten, but the whole plant is edible. The leaves are used here as a popular green vegetable and are one of my favourites, while the roots can be used like potatoes and other root vegetables. But it is the young, undeveloped sprouts that I’m looking at here. These we call 龙须菜 (lóng xū cài) meaning ‘dragon’s beard vegetable’.

 

511037480_chayoteshoots.thumb.jpg.d23ee53846b620e3ea1436e75960ea7f.jpg

Dragon's Beard

 

These are used more as a garnish or in salads, much as we might use cress in the west, and as a herb added to stir-fries at the end of cooking to wilt in the residual heat. I also like to use them with steamed fish, again letting them wilt after the fish is cooked and immediately before serving.

 

 

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32. 芡实 (qiàn shí) – Fox Nut / Gorgon Fruit – Euryale ferox

 

1319984249_foxnuts.thumb.jpg.ca2dcbee27cf287bfcabfd30a78c9a80.jpg

 

These are normally sold in the spice section in supermarkets or on spice stalls in the open markets. However I wonder if they really should be classified as spice; when I’m feeling kind I’d say they are slightly sweet and a little sour – when I’m feeling mean, they are pretty tasteless.

 

芡实 (qiàn shí), fox nuts are the dried, split seeds of a type of water-lily. They are also known as ‘prickly waterlily’, ‘Gorgon seeds’ or in Hindi, 'मखाना (makhaana)’. The plant is native to East and South Asia and 90% of the world supply is produced by Behar State in India. They are also grown in China and Japan.

 

They are often added to porridge / congee, used in hot pots and feature in many soups.

 

I’m told that they can be roasted or fried and they puff up like popcorn, although I’ve never seen this in China. More of an Indian thing.

 

Should you want  to try them amd your local Asian markets don't have them, try a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shop. Like almost  everything in this topic, they are used medicinally.

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33. 香料 (xiāng liào) – Spice Mixes

 

I’m guessing that everyone knows five-spice powder. I have no intention of talking much about that here other than to point out again that it is used far more often in the west than it actually is in China!

 

There are literally hundreds of different mixes, many of which are more interesting than boring old 5-spice. And 5-spice is about to be outbid below.

 

There is no way I’m going to cover 100s of mixes but I will start with two I think may be interesting.

 

1. 干蘸粉 (gān zhàn fěn) – Dry Dip Powder.

 

China has many dips and they are normally offered with every meal, Most are liquid, being based on soy sauce, oils and vinegars flavoured with spices. But there are also dry dips, which are usually served with meats.

 

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My favourite is this one which comes in this small can containing 40 grams / 1.4 ounces. It contains sand ginger, cassia, star anise, fennel, sugar, Sichuan peppercorn, chilli, salt, cumin; all of which I’ve mentioned above, except sugar*. It is fragrant and spicy hot.

 

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2. 十三香 (shí sān xiāng) – 13 Spices

 

(xiāng) is an interesting but multi-purpose word in Chinese and difficult to translate. It can mean fragrant; sweet-smelling; aromatic; with relish; with good appetite; (sleep) soundly; popular; welcome; perfume or spice; incense; joss stick. Take your pick. Then when combined with other characters, dozens more meanings. Cilantro / coriander, for example is 香菜 (xiāng cài, literally ‘xiang vegetable’).

 

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This popular mix is actually often easier to find here than 5-spice.

 

It contains sand kernels, cloves, angelica, star anise, fennel, pepper, galangal, orange peel, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, dried ginger, hawthorn, and licorice. Most of which I’ve covered. Will get round to the others soon.

 

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It is used in much the same way as 5-spice. Rubs, marinades, hot pots, stir-fries etc. Available in the USA and UK via Amazon and in many Asian markets.

 

* Sugar in China - a topic from 2016.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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34. 姜黄 (jiāng huáng) – Turmeric – Curcuma longa

 

turmeric.thumb.jpg.55ff0b17c7e81768470a2be14752aa9c.jpg

 

Ground Turmeric

 

I guess most people associate 姜黄 (jiāng huáng), turmeric with India. I know I always did. But, in fact, it has been known in China and SE Asia for centuries. In China, it has long been used in TCM, despite there being no real evidence of any therapeutic powers, but in recent years, has became more available to the home cook. It has been used in industrial food production for much longer, both as a colouring agent and for its earthy, bitter, peppery flavour.

 

姜黄 (jiāng huáng) literally means 'ginger yellow', reflecting that it is closely related to common ginger. The unusual order of the two words suggests that it was originally used for its colour, more than anything else.

 

Here, I see it in supermarkets and in bakery supply stores. It comes in three forms. By far the most common, as it is worldwide, is the ground turmeric. The spice in this bottle is grown in Shandong Province in north-east China.

 

405269618_groundturmeric.thumb.jpg.26de8a1d840ec1b626c65f7ea60a72c1.jpg

 

However, I can also get the fresh rhizomes from which the powder is derived.

 

1467605335_FreshTurmericRoot.thumb.jpg.b2478366966957f2660990c468a1d5a3.jpg

Fresh Turmeric Rhizomes

 

The rhizomes can be stored and used exactly as you would with ginger.

 

And finally I can get the boiled and then dried turmeric which is ready for me to grind myself or just to be dropped into a hot pot or soup. Right now, I have all three in the pantry, although the ground type is running low – time for a restock, methinks.

 

930331261_driedturmeric.thumb.jpg.375b2b6c566205f7ba67062c629098c9.jpg

Sliced, Boiled and Dried Turmeric

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

34. 姜黄 (jiāng huáng) – Turmeric – Curcuma longa

 

turmeric.thumb.jpg.3e3043fd1b3be387e473a625aadb5601.jpg

Ground Turmeric

 

I guess most people associate 姜黄 (jiāng huáng), turmeric with India. I know I always did. But, in fact, it has been known in China and SE Asia for centuries. In China, it has long been used in TCM, despite there being no real evidence of any therapeutic powers, but in recent years, has became more available to the home cook. It has been used in industrial food production for much longer, both as a colouring agent and for its earthy, bitter, peppery flavour.

 

姜黄 (jiāng huáng) literally means 'ginger yellow', reflecting that it is closely related to common ginger. The unusual order of the two words suggests that it was originally used for its colour, more than anything else.

 

Here, I see it in supermarkets and in bakery supply stores. It comes in three forms. By far the most common, as it is worldwide, is the ground turmeric. The spice in this bottle is grown in Shandong Province in north-east China.

 

405269618_groundturmeric.thumb.jpg.26de8a1d840ec1b626c65f7ea60a72c1.jpg

 

However, I can also get the fresh rhizomes from which the powder is derived.

 

1467605335_FreshTurmericRoot.thumb.jpg.b2478366966957f2660990c468a1d5a3.jpg

Fresh Turmeric Rhizomes

 

The rhizomes can be stored and used exactly as you would with ginger.

 

And finally I can get the boiled and then dried turmeric which is ready for me to grind myself or just to be dropped into a hot pot or soup. Right now, I have all three in the pantry, although the ground type is running low – time for a restock, methinks.

 

930331261_driedturmeric.thumb.jpg.375b2b6c566205f7ba67062c629098c9.jpg

Sliced, Boiled and Dried Turmeric

 

Here fresh turmeric root may be found at the local Shoprite, in the section with ginger, horseradish, and parsnips.  Not far from the Brussels' sprouts.

 

More than once I've thought to run some turmeric through my Kuvings juicer.  Turmeric has a reputation of health food in this part of America.  Sadly the thought of me and my kitchen floor stained saffron has put me off so far.

 

Cooking is cool.  And kitchen gear is even cooler.  -- Chad Ward

 

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