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Saturday, August 23, 2008



I bought two packages of miso soup "filling" when I went to that Japanese supermarket. Both packages contain shredded dried seaweed; one had a bonus red-purple seaweed and dried tofu, the other has green onions and little wheat cracker/noodle things.

The only problem is that the seaweed expands in hot water like a rock star's ego in front of an audience: a few tablespoons go into the water, and suddenly there is no room in the pot for a ladle, my kitchen smells and feels like Monterey Bay, I'm pulling seaweed out of the propellers, and otters are running off my with sesame crackers.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:59 AM

Thursday, February 21, 2008

  Fashionable kale. That kale I spotted at the farmer's market, the one that is shaped like a feather and very deep green, is apparently called "Tuscan kale." If you care. If you do not care, kindly disregard this entry.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:01 PM

Sunday, May 13, 2007

  The corn has ears, the potatoes have eyes, and the greens have names. One of the many pleasures of the farmer's markets and many of our local green grocers is the array of exotic greens available. Many I eat routinely - like gai lon, a sort of broccoli rabe - but many of them have a wide range of names, and so my friends who also use them have a hard time differentiating one kind of green from another unless it's in front of them. Even really fabulous resource sites, like the Asian Ingredient Guide by doesn't necessarily cover every sort of green that is commonly available here. (Though everything they do cover is photographed beautifully, don't you think?)

Luckily, the SF Public Libraries are coming through for me again. I've checked out an illustrated book on Asian veggies, and now know the names of some of my less commonly named favorites. They are:

-choy sum (flowering cabbage). This looks a lot like baby bok choy, with white stems and deep green leaves, but the leaves are a bit more scalloped around the edges, and they are usually sold with obvious yellow flowers.

-gau choy or gau choy sum (flat-leaved flowering chives, which often have a little flower bud at the top of their long, flat leaves). I've used these in soups and salads.

-yau choy (oil seed rape/rapeseed/rabe, aka the plant that makes seeds from which canola oil is made). This is pale green, has long stems, oval leaves, and yellow flowers. I don't like this quite as much as gai lon, but it is tasty. I've mistaken this for young gai lon in the past, despite the more yellow color.

-juk gai choy (mustard cabbage). Here this is often available as "Chinese mustard," but it isn't quite as good stewed as regular mustard for saag.

-tsee geung (stem ginger). Well, I knew this was young ginger each time I've bought it: I just didn't know it had its own name.

-dau mui (pea shoots). I never see these in the farmer's market, but can find them at local stores (just not in my neighborhood). These are extremely tasty, and I love them just rinsed, and briefly wilted in a wok with garlic and a little oil. They are sometimes used to stuff little dumplings, and then are great with a little chili sauce. (This means they're also great with rice noodles, if you think of them as disassembled dumplings.) They must be used right after you buy them, or they lose their tenderness and become a bit stringy.

-bak dau gok (mile long beans). I've cooked these several times, usually with garlic or a black bean sauce. This book notes that they aren't related to our green beans, and I suppose you can tell that from the taste and texture. They take a little longer to cook than regular green beans, and have a more fibrous texture.

The book is also quick to mention that the aversion to raw produce in China is partly based on health concerns, since human waste is routinely used for fertilizer: if you can't find recipes for using veggies like these raw, there is a reason!

I'm amused that I've been buying so many nameless veggies based on good guesses on how they are prepared. In my experience, most greens taste great over rice when thoroughly washed and stir-fried briefly in a small amount of oil with one or more of the following:

-garlic, minced
-fresh ginger root, minced or grated
-scallions, thinly sliced
-soy sauce
-chili sauce (I prefer Vietnam-style garlic chili sauce)
-black bean sauce (a fermented soybean sauce, available in many variations)
-rice vinegar, a splash (especially with slightly bitter greens)
-roasted sesame oil, a very small amount.

Tofu goes well with just about all greens. Mustard and collards have rather powerful flavors, so be careful if you're uncertain what you're after.

It's a shame this book is meat-centered, because I'd be interested in new recipes for some of the featured veggies that I've never tried, like bitter melon, water spinach (not actually a spinach), or bottle gourd.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:58 AM

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