Ashley / Food / Home-tested recipes

Wanted: A Chinese Vegetable Encyclopedia

Tuesday night is quickly becoming “figuring out how to cook Chinese vegetables” night at our house. In August we signed up to be part of a organic food co-op. You must be thinking organic vegetables? China? Really? Yes. Really. And for those equally surprised that Phil eats vegetables by choice, he still manages to stick some mince pork in while I’m not looking. The farm we bought into is run by a pretty cool local family featured in an article here.

Each Tuesday we receive 2.5 kg of local organic vegetables for 25 RMB (3.67 USD). We get whatever is in season, delivered to our door and spend the rest of the week trying to figure out what the heck we got and what it’s called in English.

The above picture is of this week’s shipment. Some are pretty easy to identify, others are a bit more mysterious. Clockwise from the twelve o’clock are potatoes (tudou or 土豆), beets (tiancai or 甜菜), we think large leafy spinach that’s good for soups according to our aiyi (bocai or 菠菜), pumpkin (nangua or 南瓜), cucmber (huanggua or 黄瓜), mystery leafy amaranth looking veg, winter melon (donggua or 冬瓜), and finally, we think small hollow hearted vegetables, but don’t know what it’s called.

Learning the names is sometimes the easy part (with the help of our aiyi, xiao luo). The cooking is the tough part though. We’ve been scouring our collection of Fuchsia Dunlop cookbooks for insight in cooking with Chinese vegetables. So far we’ve found that Chinese fuzzy melon is a decent substitute for zucchini. We’ve learned how to make a mean yue xiang chezi (fish fragrant eggplant) and hong shao dong gua (red braised winter melon). We even went so far as to putting together a Mediterranean mezze night with our surplus of eggplant.

It’s been an adventure so far, but that’s with fun and interesting summertime vegetables. I’m interested to see how we’ll fare through wintertime. For the time being, if anyone knows what our mystery veg is above, let us know!

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