Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, May 23 – Pandas aren’t the only ones who eat bamboo; most Asian people also enjoy it! Bamboo shoots are widely used in Asian cuisine. We have just recently started eating these at home. You can buy fresh bamboo shoots in the markets when they are in season, but, if you do, you have to know how to properly prepare them for cooking because they have toxins in their raw state. We buy them precooked and packaged, so all you need to do is rinse them and add to your dishes. We just add them to stir fries. You can buy different sizes and whole or sliced. When we visited the Shanghai area in April, the young shoots were in season, and some of the restaurants had special dishes. The lower right corner of the picture was a delicious soup made with young bamboo.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 7 – We are still working on our goal of trying all of the different greens available here, so, today we bought some red amaranth greens, called “hong xian cai.” There are also plain green ones (bai xian cai), but the red are so much prettier :-) Many people today know amaranth as a healthy gluten free grain. These are the nutritional leaves of the same plant, commonly available in Asia, but probably only in specialty stores in Western locations. The young leaves can be used in salads and I’m thinking may come in the mixed assortments you can buy in the USA (?) The leaves you buy in China are more mature and are best cooked. Fix it like you would spinach: stir fry, steam or put it in soup. The stems can be eaten if you want or you can just use the leaves. The reddish-purple color will bleed into any liquid you use. We just stir-fried ours, stems and leaves, with some garlic and a little seasoning. We probably could’ve used a little more seasoning than we did, but it was good, and considering its list of nutritional benefits, and low cost (less than 40 cents usd for the bunch!) I’ll eat it again :-)
Life in China: A Picture A Day, April 5, 2016 - I have good news for all my friends in the southern USA…if there is a famine, you won’t starve! You know all that Kudzu that is everywhere you go? It is not only edible, but good for you! Every part of the plant, except the woody vine, is edible, although in Asia the root, called “gé gēn,” is the most popular. We have never seen it in the supermarkets, but the wet markets have it. We decided to give it a try, made some soup with it, and although I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite, it wasn’t bad! It reminded me of jicama, very hard when fresh, somewhat difficult to peel and chop, and not a lot of it’s own flavor. We also purchased some “ge fen,” or kudzu root powder, for a drink. I decided to try it plain, again not my favorite, but, it suggested adding a little sweetener, and I can see that would make it very palatable. It seems there are plenty of US websites that suggest using the leaves for salad. And… the root and flowers are used in TCM, have been for 2000 years! You’re probably thinking everything is used in TCM! Not really, but I write about the interesting things :-) The main use over time has been for alcoholism, supposedly it helps with hangovers! Who wants some now??? And a lot more…look up either kudzu or pueraria if you are interested in the medicinal uses.
Life in China: A Picture A Day, April 1, 2016 -This squash never really looked much different from the regular zucchini squash I buy so I’ve tended to just ignore it. Leah finally decided we should try it. As with so many other vegetables, it has many names! In English, it can be called calabash gourd (with a rounded bottom) or bottle gourd (long and slender like the picture), in Chinese it is pu guo 蒲瓜 (pronounced poo gwa), and in other Asian countries it can be lauki, doodhi, or opo squash. They are all the same other than shape; It has smooth light green skin and white spongy flesh with seeds. I read both to take the seeds out or to leave them, so we left them in and they weren’t even noticeable. It has a very mild taste, but is supposedly packed with health benefits; It has a very high water content and is good for digestion, urinary health (acts as a diuretic), eases constipation, weight loss (especially when juiced), high blood pressure and heart health! Taste a small piece before using and if it is bitter you shouldn’t eat it. We peeled and cubed ours, then tried it two different ways. We made a soup with the bottle gourd, carrot, onion and sweet potato, boiled them in water, then pureed the mixture and added coconut milk and seasoning (It looked like pumpkin soup!)…. turned out delicious! The other half we just stir fried with some beef strips, garlic and onion. I liked it in the soup best, but the stir-fry was also good. They are harvested young for eating, if left to mature, then they are dried and the shell hardens making them just right for bottles and musical instruments. I’m curious if those of you outside of Asia can buy these?