abcdefg Posted April 21, 2018 at 06:22 AM Report Share Posted April 21, 2018 at 06:22 AM I went to a working lunch a couple weeks ago at a respected restaurant in an exclusive conference center out near Dian Lake. It was sponsored by a hospital group with which I'm consulting part time. About a dozen people were present and it didn't take long for the conversation to shift to the always-interesting topic of "Spring Food." China eats by seasons as well as by regions. Most of you probably knew that. But it's not just a little bit; it's fairly extreme. Some of this is simply dictated by what's available when, but lots is also dictated by what is considered beneficial for health as the body is going through this particular stage of its annual changes. What promotes qi when emerging from winter, for example, and what helps maintain the proper balance between wet and dry, internal heat and internal cold? Such subjects are not considered esoteric here, and are things every boy or girl grows up understanding while still at grandmother's knee. The consensus of our group of knowledgeable locals was that the absolute glory of this time of year is wild vegetables. Things that don't thrive in cultivation and must be harvested by hand up on the side of the mountain. Under their guidance, we ordered several such items and my curiosity was piqued about several more. Here's a quick look into that world: Yunnan's wild spring vegetable world. Remember -- You can click the photos to enlarge them. Many wild vegetables are served with eggs. The dish above left is one of those. The small golden flowers are called 金花，logically enough, and are cooked tender and moist with their supporting green tips, resulting in a thin griddle cake, or 煎饼 of the type we have encountered before. What makes them great is that their taste is so fresh, so pleasant, so mild. The eggs let them shine. The bamboo shoots on the above right are a special kind found only in spring. Their distinguishing characteristic is that they are ever so slightly sweet. Being tender, all they require is a quick stir fry, here presented with red and green peppers. I often make them at home. The lady at my neighborhood wet market, above left, peels the tough outer leaves after weighing your purchase. Easy to fix, they are one of my "go to" meals at this time of year. One can also buy baby bamboo shoots, already peeled, that are usually sold as 春笋, sometimes a 竹呀 (bamboo sprouts.) I like these too and have posted recipes for them here in the past. You can see them above right. Our meal included a spicy, vinegary salad with an unusual earthy kick. It was made from the leaves of a root vegetable that's popular in Yunnan, namely the 折耳根。It has no translation, pronounced "zhe er gen" and I'd be surprised if it's found in the west. It's not even popular in other distant parts of China. The roots are like "underground vines" and can be found year round here, but the leaves are at their best now, tender and "peppery." I bought some at the market this morning, shown above right. Plan to prepare them at home tonight. Adding a spoon or two of fermented beans 豆豉 rounds out their taste. They served a large basin of small fish that were freshly caught an hour before in the nearby lake that we could see from the window. They were served in a spicy sauce, one to each diner, and were considered a special spring treat because each fish was filled with roe. The roe had been cooked in place. Interesting flavor and texture. I had not had it before. The lunch featured lots of vegetables, emphasizing what was best right then, going light on meat. These pictured above right are related to asparagus. Lightly steamed and served with a sauce, ready to be mixed at the table. The sauce had fire and a bite. Yunnan does love its spices. The lunch left an impression and I've been trying to make a lot of the same things to enjoy at home. When I went to the wet market this morning, I was bowled over by a huge assortment of edible flowers and edible ferns. Some I've made at home in years past, but others are still a mystery. Those give me something to which to look forward in days to come. Lady above left, in ethnic garb, has 3 or 4 kinds of flowers displayed as well as lots of young okra, popular here just now as 黄蜀葵。It's usually fried, sometimes pickled and served as a salad. 凉拌。Pretty sure you can make out the red roses, lower left in the frame. The fiddlehead ferns on the basket on the right above are sold as 蕨菜。 Often they are served scrambled with eggs. I bought a bunch of the fresh, crimson tipped 香椿 (aka "Chinese toon") pictured here to the left, and plan to make it tomorrow. They require a little knack, and if not done right can taste too strong to be pleasant. It's actually the young tip of a tree branch, the tree from the mahogany family, and it occupies an interesting niche partway between delicacy and survival fare. But I've made them in past springs and enjoyed them. Pretty sure I've posted some recipes here. Will go back and check later. I bought three of these small tropical pineapples for 10 Yuan. Some are brought up from Vietnam, but I understood her to say these were from Xishuangbanna, in the deep south of Yunnan. The seller will cut them into bite sized pieces, but I usually do that at home one at a time so they keep longer. I passed on the cherries this morning, though I bought some last week. Tasty. These are the small tart Yunnan cherries that become available in the middle of March every year. You recall that our cherry trees bloom in February, much earlier than those revered in the Cherry Blossom Festivals of Japan. No trip to the market would be complete without stopping off at the food stalls for a nice hot bowl of something or other local and delicious. Today I opted for won ton in a spicy red sauce 红汤馄饨 。Sometimes instead I have a bowl of 豆花米线，rice noodles with soft tofu "flowers," equally good for a Saturday snack. Both can be made at home, of course, but they are 6 or 8 Yuan very well spent in my estimation, just to avoid all the fuss and give the morning a "holiday" feel. 3 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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