Popular Post abcdefg Posted September 6, 2017 at 09:57 AM Popular Post Report Share Posted September 6, 2017 at 09:57 AM This is another of those brilliant local vegetables that I'd never even heard of before moving to China. A search today turned up that it has become sort of a "darling" of a couple of adventurous five-star chefs in New York and a couple more in California. One or two cutting-edge French chefs have been reported to love it and be trying to promote it. But it's still a long way from being a staple at Mr. Wang's China Palace Buffet in that strip mall on the loop near where I spend part of each year in small town North Texas. Be that as it may, it is truly fine stuff, and I will do my best to tell you something about it today. Here's what it looks like, raw in the market. I can find it here nearly year round, and even though it gets a little more expensive in the winter, it never comes close to breaking the bank. It is in fact a variety of lettuce, and here in the south of China it goes by several names, the most common one being wo sun 莴笋。It's very popular in Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou, with Hunan and Guangxi being fond of it too. Sometimes it's called 莴苣 wo ju. As you know, Chinese vegetables usually have numerous monikers, so it has several other labels as well. In English it gets dubbed "Celtus" by the scientists, and "asparagus lettuce" by some of the chefs. My own favorite is "stem lettuce" because it describes how it is mainly raised for its stem, instead of for its leaves. Occasionally, however, it is picked young in order to get the leaves when they are prime. Then it is referred to as 油麦菜, and that's what is shown here, just below. One can eat the leaves of the more mature forms, but they tend to be somewhat tough and bitter. I usually throw them away. Wo sun is exceedingly versatile, and can even be eaten raw as a salad. Today I have used it in a stir fry, paired with a very distinguished partner, namely Shiping Tofu 石屏豆腐。It comes from a town of that name in Honghe Prefecture 红河州 where all the conditions are just right for the production of world-class tofu. It's sold throughout Yunnan, and I've mentioned it in these pages before. Wo sun, like so many other unique vegetables, is a challenge to describe. It has a mild flavor, slightly nutty, with a pleasantly crunchy texture. Some writers have called its taste a cross between lettuce, celery, and asparagus. It combines well with things that are a little more forward, such as today's tofu. One can buy Shiping Tofu in several editions ranging from silky and bland, all the way through aromatic to stinky. The one I bought for this dish is called 老豆腐, and you can smell it halfway across the room even though it is not overpowering or aggressive. It doesn't make you flinch or cry. I peeled the fibrous outer skin, then cut off and discarded the leaves. Sliced the two stems into thin rounds. Sometimes I cut them into coarse matchsticks, depending on the intended use. Thinly sliced half of a red bell pepper 红甜椒, minced a little garlic and ginger. By the way, I'm sure you recognize my trusty Hong Kong knife, sharp and well balanced, eagerly doing its duty. It continues to be the star of my Kunming kitchen and has been easy to maintain as well as a joy to use. I'm also pleased to report that it has not caused any severed digits and has only produced minimal arterial bleeding on a couple of unfortunate careless occasions. Rinse the tofu and blot dry. Slice it into bite-sized pieces. The rice cooker beeps, indicating that it is finished, wok is nice and hot on the gas burner, and we are ready now to rock and roll. You will notice some dry red chili peppers 干红辣椒 in with the garlic and ginger. Add a couple tablespoons of oil, and slide in the tofu. Cooking it first like this keeps it from getting all torn up like it would if we introduced it at the same time as the vegetables. When it's brown on both sides, take it out 备用。 Wipe out the wok and add a little more oil. Stir-fry the aromatics (garlic, ginger, red chili pepper) until you can smell them 炮香。Then add the wo sun in the middle. When the wo sun is heated through, flip it all around vigorously 翻炒 and mix everything well with your spatula 锅铲。 Now make a hole in the center and add back the reserved golden brown tofu. When it comes up to temperature, mix it all up with a gentle flipping motion 翻炒。It's always good to follow the "dao of the wok" by adding new ingredients to the middle, which is the hottest part. Then gradually incorporate them into the other items that are already frying. Sprinkle in about half a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of 味精 (wei jing MSG.) Next step, you guessed it, serve it up 装盘。Enjoy it with a fresh bowl of steamed rice. This is enough for a simple vegetarian meal, or you could have it alongside a small roast chicken. 5 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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