abcdefg Posted April 7, 2017 at 04:42 AM Report Share Posted April 7, 2017 at 04:42 AM Xiang chun 香椿 is a "tree vegetable" consisting of very young shoots from the Chinese mahogany tree, Toona sinensis. They are at their best in the spring of the year and are usually referred to as a type of 野菜, which means "wild vegetable." If you leave the tree alone, it will grow to a height of 30 meters or so. But you can cut parts of it back and harvest tender leaves and shoots as a flavorful and nutritious seasonal food, loaded with anti-oxidants and vitamins. They taste floral and almost fruity while still being slightly spicy, suggestive of a cross between garlic, onion and apple, as unlikely as that may sound. It's abundant in Yunnan, but grows in quite a few other parts of China as well. The vendor from whom I bought them at the wet market was originally from Shandong. It was his wife who encouraged me to plop down the grand sum of 1.5 Yuan for this bunch and try cooking them. She explained that if they had a lot of red color, like these, instead of being all green, it means they will have more flavor. She was right: they were delicious. Let me show you one way to cook them, namely as an egg-based skillet pancake or 煎蛋饼。They only take a few minutes and will make a substantial breakfast or fit together with soup as a light lunch. First wash them well, then cut away and discard the tough, woody stems, leaving only small shoots and leaves behind. Blanch 焯 them in boiling water for 15 or 20 seconds. Just put them in the pan of boiling water, and when it comes to the boil again, fish them out. Set them aside until cool enough to handle, then squeeze out the excess water with one hand 挤干水分。The water in which you have blanched them will have a strong, sulfur-like smell. This step removes the excess of that volatile organic compound, while still leaving enough to lend a pleasant if distinctive flavor. Now chop the greens coarsely. Break two or three eggs, tudan 土蛋 (free range eggs) being preferred because they have more flavor. Mix in a teaspoon or so of corn starch 淀粉 and a generous pinch of salt 食盐。Then add the blanched and chopped vegetable. Some recipes call for adding a bit of minced scallion 葱花 but I really don't think it is necessary. I used one small handful of chopped vegetable for each egg. If the mix is real thick at this stage, add a teaspoon or so of cool drinking water. It's best if this slurry isn't too dense so that it will spread out evenly over the bottom of the cooking skillet or wok. The batter as pictured here was before I added an additional spoon water. There is a trick 小窍门 to cooking these which has to do with heat. Warm the wok over medium heat, and spread a little cooking oil over it; just barely enough to cover. Then add another tablespoon or so of cool (room temperature) oil and immediately pour in the batter. 热锅冷油。 Swirl it around, making an even layer and turn the cooking temperature to low. Let it cook for 2 or 3 minutes on low, at first undisturbed and then afterwards you can shake the pan to slide the 煎饼 pancake around. Carefully lift one edge and peek to see if it is golden 金黄 on the reverse side. If so, flip it over. That's not as difficult as it sounds if the pancake has "set" and become solid 凝固。 Take a deep breath and pretend you are a celebrity chef on TV, tossing it into the air with a flick of the wrist. Or you can be humble and use two spatulas together, which is what I did today. It didn't crumble or tear. Here's the finished product, with some sliced ripe tomato as garnish. Worth the trouble? Yes. This is something I will make again and again. 3 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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