Asian root vegetables list

Do you ever get in the mood for certain dishes from different parts of the world? I go through spells where I love Mexican cuisine.

But lately, I’ve been into Asian cuisine. I saw a post on a homesteading site where a man from Asia was curious why Americans chose to eat out more than cooking. He said Asian cuisine could be whipped up in a flash and it was healthy.

Therefore, he didn’t understand why we chose to eat out and in turn, had weight issues. He was evident in his statement he didn’t mean any offense to us as Americans but was genuinely curious about our food choices.

Which made me wonder, “What was he eating which could save me time and my health in the process?” Many of the comments which followed his question were very interesting, and I learned a great deal from this one post.

Following this online conversation, I began to research different Asian dishes. The funny thing is – he was right. Many recipes were healthy, fast, and easy to whip up.

Now, I want to give you a list of Asian vegetables which are easy to serve and make delicious meals from. Here are the veggies you should know about:

1. Chinese Cabbage

There are many different varieties of Chinese cabbage. The standard variety of this type of cabbage is Napa cabbage. It’s high in vitamin C, which makes it a healthy option for you.

The great thing about preparing Chinese cabbage is it takes on any flavor of the foods it’s prepared with. Don’t feel you have to continually cook this style of cabbage because it’s an excellent addition to salads, stir-fry, or soups too.

If you haven’t prepared Chinese cabbage before, choose the heads which have crispy leaves and are green.

2. Daikon Radish

You’ll notice the trend with Asian vegetables is they all are high in nutrients. The daikon radish is no exception. It’s high in nutrients while remaining low in calories.

This radish will stand out from other ordinary varieties of radishes because it has a long, white root. Daikon radishes not only stand out by looks but in flavor too.

They have a milder flavor in comparison to other radish varieties and have less of a pepper flavor. Daikon radishes can be pickled or cooked in a dish by slicing or grating it.

However, the daikon radish isn’t for taste alone. The health benefits are amazing. It can help with digestive troubles, and you can juice it to use as an anti-inflammatory or to help cure a headache.

3. Yardlong Beans

Yardlong beans are also known as asparagus beans. They grow on a long, climbing vine and slightly resemble asparagus because of their shape and color.

Though this vegetable is called a bean, don’t get caught up in titles. It may belong to the bean family, but shouldn’t be prepared the same as traditional style green beans.

If you throw this bean in a pot of boiling water, they’ll become overwhelmingly soggy. Instead, you should sauté these beans.

The great thing about yardlong beans is there is no stringing involved in prepping them. You wash the beans and cut before cooking.

However, when you try to purchase yardlong beans, don’t be alarmed. They’ll look limp, and this is normal even when they are freshly picked.

4. Bok Choy

Bok choy is a vegetable high in vitamins C, A, and K. It’s also high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and iron.

If you’re like me and struggle to take in as many vitamins as you should in a day, you should consider adding this vegetable to your diet.

It’s able to add many necessary nutrients to your diet by eating only one type of vegetable. It simplifies things.

Not to mention, you can toss Bok choy raw in a salad, or you can cook it and use it as part of a stir-fry.

5. Taro Root

Taro root is another Asian vegetable high in numerous types of vitamins. It’s high in vitamin A, C, E, B6, folate, magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, and copper.

Again, why wouldn’t you include this in your diet if you can get this much nutrients from one type of food?

If the nutrients aren’t enough to get you to try it, you should also know taro root is good for your digestion and helps prevent cancer by giving your immune system a boost.

Taro root also helps to regulate your insulin and glucose levels, which is helpful for those struggling with diabetes or pre-diabetes. It can also help boost your heart health and vision.

If all of this isn’t enough, you should know it can also help your skin to look healthier and clearer when included in your diet on a regular basis.

6. Lotus Root

Lotus root is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the root of the Lotus flower. Don’t get caught up in the flower to the point you miss all the Lotus root can do for you.

This root can help with blood circulation, helps reduce your stress, and can help regulate your blood pressure as well.

It’s also high in vitamin C, can help improve your digestion, gives your heart health a boost, and can help with weight management.

But you don’t have to munch on this root in raw form to get these benefits. You can deep-fry it, put it in soup, stir-fry it, or cook it for any other recipe you desire it to be a part of.

7. Mustard Greens

I know what you’re thinking, “Mustard greens? I thought those were supposed to be covered in bacon grease and vinegar?”

Well, in the south this is precisely how we eat them. But in Asian cuisine, mustard greens are compiled with other heart-healthy vegetables to make a quick and easy stir-fry.

The next time you’re in a rush to get food on the table, consider tossing mustard greens and other veggies from the fridge in a large pan. Sauté them and include a protein for a well rounded and fast meal.

8. Garlic Chives

I love garlic chives. I grow them in my herb garden year after year. They have a beautiful aroma and also do a great job of attracting butterflies.

However, garlic chives are also great for many other uses. You can include them in your stir-fries, salads, soups, and over grilled meats.

But some of my favorite ways to incorporate them into my dishes are in herbal vinegar, delicious butter, and soft cheeses.

9. Japanese Eggplant

Japanese eggplant is a popular vegetable in Japan, which you might expect. In Japanese culinary, it’s the third most used vegetable.

This vegetable has been produced in Japan for more than 12 centuries, but with the number of nutrients it provides and the diverse ways it can be used, it isn’t any wonder.

Japanese eggplant is high in vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber. You can prepare this healthy vegetable by roasting it, including it in soup, or making it part of a stir-fry.

10. Lemongrass

Lemongrass is another excellent herb used in Asia. When choosing lemongrass, choose bunches which have a strong smell to them.

Also, you’ll want them to have a yellowish and green color close to the bulb. If purchasing from a store, be sure the bunch is tightly wound and not loose.

When you find the right bunch of lemongrass, you can take it home and find a delicious curry recipe to include it in.

11. Choy Sum

Choy sum looks similar to Bok choy. You probably couldn’t tell the difference except choy sum has smaller stalks and produces yellow flowers.

Like Bok choy, this Asian vegetable is excellent for use in many different ways. You can include it raw for a salad, cooked, or as part of a stir-fry.

12. Galangal

This root vegetable is used more as a seasoning and confuses many people in the process. If you see it on a grocery shelf, you might assume you were looking at ginger.

The only difference in appearance between galangal and ginger is galangal has a harder and paler flesh in comparison to ginger.

But once you bite into galangal, you’ll quickly learn there’s a huge difference in flavor. Galangal has a citrus flavor with a hint of pine.

Obviously, you can’t use galangal as a substitute for ginger, or at least, it’s not recommended.

Galangal is good for more than tricking you. It’s great for your digestion. Also, it can help with treating hiccups and upset stomach.

If you’re suffering from morning sickness, galangal is said to be able to help alleviate this as well.

You can use galangal in different spice blends, to season a culinary dish, and it’s also a common ingredient in the Indonesian dish ‘nasi goreng.’ This is translated as an Indonesian version of fried rice.

13. Mizuna

Mizuna is a leafy green vegetable which would make a great addition to your salad mix. You can include mizuna in your pasta dishes as well.

However, if you’re looking for a leafy green to add to your stir-fry, then mizuna would be a great fit. You can include it in your risotto as well.

Mizuna is an excellent fit for soups and quinoa salads too. If you aren’t up for making any of these dishes, you can sauté mizuna by itself and enjoy it this way as well.

14. Tatsoi

This is another leafy green which is included in many different salad mixes throughout the world. We eat it and don’t realize it because tatsoi is similar in appearance to spinach.

Tatsoi is a simple vegetable to figure out how to use it. Anything you would use spinach in, you can substitute tatsoi in its place.

Which means, if you enjoy spinach in a salad, include tatsoi in your salads. If you like creamed spinach, try creamed tatsoi and see if you like it too. Your options are limitless.

15. Water Spinach

Finally, we come to water spinach. This is a unique aquatic perennial which grows in tropic and subtropics locations.

It makes a great addition to stir-fry, curry, or you can saute and enjoy it by itself. However you decide to fix it, you’ll be glad you tried it because water spinach has an incredible amount of benefits.

Water spinach helps to reduce your cholesterol, aids in digestion, helps with diabetes and is great for your heart health too.

Well, you now know 15 different Asian vegetables you should include in your diet. Hopefully, you can come up with some quick, healthy, and tasty Asian cuisine recipes for your enjoyment and improve your overall health.

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This page is a bit of a catch-all for miscellaneous Asian vegetables–the oddballs of the produce section, if you will. As our recipe list expands, we can break these ingredients up into more specific categories, but, for now, this should be quite useful for y’all!

If you’re looking for more information on other Chinese ingredients, go to our main Chinese Ingredients Glossary page to review the different categories and easily find what you’re looking for.

Bamboo Shoots (竹笋)

These are the tender shoots of the bamboo plant, before they turn into huge green stalks on which kung fu masters battle it out. We’re thinking of the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” that was filmed in On Location in Hongcun. Edible bamboo shoots, zhú sǔn (竹笋) or simply sǔn (笋), fall into two broad categories: winter and spring shoots. Spring shoots are larger and a bit tougher than winter shoots. Obviously, it’s a very seasonal vegetable, so it is often difficult to find high quality bamboo shoots for the majority of the year.

Winter bamboo shoots or “dong shun” (冬笋) are usually in season during the late winter months when you can usually find them in Asian grocery stores.

They can be expensive ranging between $3 – $6 per pound since they are mostly imported from China. However, they are tender, sweet tasting and are perfect for any dishes that call for bamboo shoots like Chicken with Garlic Sauce.

Spring bamboo shoots (春笋), pronounced chūn sǔn in Mandarin are seasonal and are commonly found in China but you can sometimes find them in the US. This picture below of spring bamboo shoots was taken recently from a market in Shanghai during the month of March and they are available into the late spring months. A favorite soup that all Shanghai people know of and love is Yan Du Xian (Shanghainese Salted Pork Soup with Bamboo Shoots and Tofu) where either winter or spring bamboo shoots are one of the featured ingredients of the dish.

For those of you who can’t find fresh spring bamboo shoots, we found these frozen packages at our local Asian grocery store. One of our most favorite dishes are Braised Spring Bamboo Shoots (油焖笋) that Judy makes that are simply fantastic! Vegetarians and vegans and even meat lovers will love and seek out this dish once they have had it once!

You can also find frozen bamboo shoots, which are very good, or dried ones, which need to be soaked for a few hours before using. Each has a slightly different flavor and texture. We generally prefer fresh or frozen but canned bamboo shoots are usually available at Asian markets and some supermarkets Asian food aisles.

In general, canned bamboo shoots are easier to obtain than fresh ones, and are available whole, shredded, or sliced. After opening the can, be sure to drain and rinse them. Unused bamboo shoots should be stored in the refrigerator in a jar of water for up to three weeks; just remember to change the water daily. Below is an amazon link to see the different brands available but the best bet is to buy them locally.

Bamboo Shoot Slice – 8oz

Bean Sprouts (豆芽)

There are two types of Chinese bean sprouts, dòu yá (豆芽) that you will see at your local market: mung bean sprouts and soybean sprouts. For either kind, avoid long, stringy, brown, or limp sprouts, as these are sure signs that the sprouts have been out on the supermarket floor for too long.

Mung bean sprouts or lǜ dòu yá (绿豆芽) are more common, and have a small “head” the size of a grain of barley, while soybean sprouts have a yellow head the size of a small bean. You can purchase your own mung beans and make your sprouts on your own fresh! We found this link on Amazon where you can buy your own mung NON-GMO mung bean and germinate your own fresh sprouts at home!

Sprouting Seeds Mung Bean 5 Pounds – Todd’s Seeds

Mung bean sprouts are added to many dishes like Roast Pork fried rice or Cantonese Style Vegetable Pan Fried Noodles but they can also be the star of the dish like this Stir fried Chicken with Bean Sprouts.

Soy Bean Sprouts or huáng dòu yá (黄豆芽) have a larger bean while the mung bean sprouts pictured above have a much smaller bean. Most of our posted recipes use the more common mung bean sprouts. Because they sprout from a smaller bean, they are more tender. We found an Amazon link for soy beans for sprouting in case you want to try your hand at growing these sprouts at home!

The Sprout House Certified Organic Non-gmo Sprouting Seeds Soy Beans 1 Pound

Soy bean sprouts are used as a base for the beef in Sichuan Boiled Beef Shuizhu Niurou. See how they are prepared and used in this classic and authentic Sichuan boiled beef dish.

Snow Peas (荷兰豆)

Everyone knows what snow peas are, but did you know they were called hé lán dòu (荷兰豆) in Chinese? We use snow peas so often in our stir fries that we had to include it here. We like these better than snap peas, for example, because the smaller size of the peas means that you can eat the whole pod and peas inside without any errant peas making a run for it; also, they’re more tender.

In the summer when they are in season, or if you grow them in your garden, you have to try them using our Chicken with Snow Peas stir fry recipe–one of our favorite healthy go-to recipes.

Edamame aka Soy Beans (毛豆)

Most people know about edamame beans because they probably have had them as an appetizer at a Japanese restaurant. What many people don’t know about edamame is that it’s technically a type of soy bean or máo dòu (毛豆) in Chinese. Commonly found in the frozen section of Asian stores and even supermarkets, the most common way to prepare edamame is to boil them in salted water until tender, pass them through cool water, drain them and put them right in front of your guests. Only the bean is eaten and the inedible pod is discarded. We have a recipe for Edamame bean appetizer recipe the way we like to prepare it.

You can buy these frozen in Asian grocery stores and we have even seen them in local supermarkets as well!

Fava Beans (蚕豆)

Fava beans, also known as broad beans or cán dòu (蚕豆), are not very common nor popular in both western and Asian cooking. However, they have their own unique flavor and texture and, when prepared properly, they are very tasty. In Chinese cooking, fava beans are used for spicy douban sauce and also used to make noodles. Check out our Vegetable Noodles With Shrimp, where we use broad bean noodles.

The photo below is from a wet market in Shanghai. Broad beans are sold in the pods and you can peel them at home or they are also sold in baskets as beans with the pods removed. The price for the beans only are about 4 to 5 times the cost of the whole pods because you don’t have to pay for the weight of the pods that are discarded and of course, the labor required. If you have time, removing the beans from the pods are pretty easy to do and worth the price difference!

Fava Beans with Szechuan Peppercorns is one of our early recipes that we still make quite often; it’s also one of our favorite recipes for this underrated legume.

Chinese Long Beans (豇豆)

Chinese Long beans, sometimes called snake beans are also called “yardlong beans” because they can grow up to three feet long. These beans are immature cow pea pods (related to the black-eyed pea). Chinese long beans or jiāng dòu (豇豆) in Chinese, are denser and crunchier than green beans and can be found in different colors, from light and dark green to purple. We cut them into 3″-long segments and stir-fry them like we would any other green vegetable.

The picture below, taken at a local Asian grocery store, shows two types of long beans. The darker variety on the left side is generally more dense and tougher yet they are thinner in diameter. The lighter green and slightly thicker long beans on the right have a similar texture and taste to green beans – more tender and not as dense as the dark ones on the right. I will update this entry as I learn more about the names of these varieties.

Bitter Melon (balsam pear) – (苦瓜)

Bitter melon is a curious summer gourd with light green, thick ridged, bumpy skin, this melon has a strong bitter flavor that some–well many–don’t enjoy too much. Bitter melon goes by a couple of Chinese names including kǔ guā (苦瓜), a literal translation of “bitter melon” but it also goes by the name of liáng guā (凉瓜) or “cool melon”. Chinese call it “cool melon” not because it’s hip but rather it is a cooling food. Those folks familiar with TCM or traditional Chinese Medicine will know what I am talking about. For those who don’t, your can check out the yin and yang discussion out on the Wikipedia for Traditional Chinese Medicine.

You can store it in your vegetable crisper for 4-6 days. To prepare it, halve the melon, remove seeds, and slice the halves into small half-inch strips across. Cut it on a diagonal to get a professional, chef-y look. To remove some of the bitterness, blanch the slices for 2-3 minutes in salt water before stir-frying. We follow these steps for any kind of bitter melon recipe we make.

You may think twice about making bitter melon for your kids or you’ll be met with equally bitter stares! It’s certainly an acquired taste (like strong broccoli rabe), often paired with other intensely flavored ingredients, like black bean sauce and beef, pork, or chicken. It’s a classic among bitter melon lovers and probably the most famous way to preserve this much-maligned melon: Beef with Bitter Melon.

Chinese Eggplant (茄子)

These Chinese Eggplant or qié zi (茄子) longer, thinner versions of their rotund cousins are best bought unbruised, heavy, and firm, with a lavender to deep purple color. We don’t know the technical terms for the types, but there are many varieties of the Asian eggplants, which range in color from dark purple to light purple. They are all quite similar in texture and flavor–definitely softer and easier to cook than the eggplant that usually shows up in a delicious plate pf eggplant parmesan. These thinner, longer eggplants also have a more tender skin than their more rotund counterparts.

The varieties in China seem to be a bit thinner and longer than the ones we find in the US and see, c;oser to the Japanese eggplant variety that have thinner skins and a more vibrant purple color.Some of favorite eggplant dishes include the classic Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce and Chinese Stuffed Eggplant, the same dish you see at the dim sum restaurants. One of our family favorites is the Cantonese Eggplant Casserole.

Chinese Turnip or Radish (萝卜)

These Chinese turnips/radishes (also known as the Japanese daikon radish) or luó bo (萝卜)are found in various sizes, but the optimal size is usually eight to twelve inches long, white, cylindrical, and three to four inches wide. Eaten raw, it has a slightly spicy flavor, but becomes quite mild when cooked. Fair warning, though: they do have a strong aroma and flavor that will fill your kitchen when cooked. Not only does this wonderful root vegetable taste great, but this turnip is also very low in calories, aids digestion, and is a good source of vitamin C, phosphorus and potassium. Look for a heavy, firm turnip with fresh green stems (this means high water content). The skin of a fresh turnip should be shiny, not dull, and smooth, free of black spots which indicate that they are not fresh.

One of our favorite recipes is Chinese Turnip cake (Lo Bok Gao) and one of the most overlooked recipes in our collection is Chinese Braised beef and turnips.

Lotus Root (莲藕)

This long white, yellowish lotus root or lián’ǒu (莲藕) has a wheel of holes running through the middle is one of the most loved root vegetables in Chinese cooking. Harvesting these long unwieldy roots is an extremely labor intensive process that must be done by hand; it involves carefully digging them out of wet, clay mud. They’re quite long when harvested, and if it breaks, it’s no good. So don’t waste any of this delicious root!

When selecting these, make sure they are heavy, firm, and have a fresh, clean smell. Each piece must be washed thoroughly, as they have a natural sap that can come off as slimy if prepared improperly (similar to okra, though not as intense). Cut off any dark spots. After it’s peeled, it’s usually sliced into thin rounds.

Good quality fresh lotus roots are very difficult to find in the US. You can see from the picture below that the lotus roots in China are fresher (they do spoil rather quickly) and come in multiple segments still attached!

You can see and try this lotus root veggie in our Ma La Xiang Guo (Spicy Numbing Stir-fry Pot) or one of our Chinese New Year’s traditional dishes, Crispy Stuffed Lotus Root with Pork (炸藕盒).

Taro (芋头)

Taro root or yù tou (芋头) has a consistency and flavor similar to a baking potato. Most people know and love this root due to the popularity of taro smoothie bubble tea–hate to break it to you, but those are often prepared with purple powder, so don’t be surprised that this taro doesn’t have quite the same flavor. When picking these, they should be firm and heavy. Apparently, handling them may cause some skin irritation, so some people choose to wear gloves, but this has never been a problem f0r us.

One of our favorite recipes is Taro Cake (Wu Tao Gou), but you can also throw these into stews; like potatoes, they’re natural thickeners and will feed your inner carb monster.

Also remember that there are two distinct types of taro that come are large size (like a large eggplant) that are pictured above and the smaller ones that are more like the size of a small potato. They not only differ in size but also in taste and texture. The small variety pictured below are more tender and have a wet slippery texture while the large ones have a texture of a baking potato except they are much firmer.

Chinese like to eat the small taro steamed and dipped in soy sauce as they are more tender while the large ones are used for cooking in stews like Braised Duck with Taro. Just be aware when you visit the market that not all taro are the same!

Water Chestnut (馬蹄)

Water Chestnuts or mǎ tí (馬蹄) in Chinese, are a crunchy tuber vegetable that grows in marshes and muddy waters. It has a nutty flavor and in spite of its name, bears no resemblance, flavor or texture to the chestnut. Water chestnuts are a common ingredient in many vegetable stir-fry dishes and sometimes are also added to shrimp dumplings. It is usually an optional ingredient as not everyone if fond of its texture and flavor but it is one of those foods that tend to grow on you the more you have them. Below is a picture of fresh water chestnuts with the skin still intact and the sliced and whole versions that come in cans.

Canned whole or sliced water chestnuts are usually available at Asian markets and some supermarkets Asian food aisles. Below is an amazon link to see the different brands available but the best bet is to buy them locally.

Dynasty, Whole Water Chestnuts, 8 oz

Arrowroot (慈姑)

Arrowroot or cí gū(慈姑) is one of those strange vegetables that we eat only once or twice a year, but every time we have it, we wonder why we don’t cook them more often. Truth is that most of these tubers are harvested to make arrowroot starch and most people don’t know what to do with them. That said, they do show up around Chinese New Year in Asian markets and perhaps it coincides with the season of these tubers but I actually have never research it. They have a unique flavor that grows on you, similar to a water chestnut but the texture of a potato.

If you ever come across some in your local Asian store, then you must get a small bag and immediately run over to the butcher counter for a nice piece of pork belly to make one of Bill’s favorite recipes, Braised Pork Belly with Arrowroot. Judy really hit the target with this recipe because it is unbelievably good and so easy to make! It’s probably the only recipe you’ll ever need for arrowroot.

Stem Lettuce – Wo Shun or Celtuce (莴笋)

Celtuce, Stem lettuce or wō sun (莴笋) is the overgrown stem of a variety of romaine lettuce commonly known in Chinese circles as AA choy and can be found pretty easily in Asian markets. One clarification is that wo shun or celtuce is the edible stem portion of the plant that is sliced like a bamboo shoot. AA choy is the leafy part of the vegetable and usually stir fried and eaten as a leafy green vegetable. The flavor is subtle and you have to pause to realize what you’re tasting is concentrated lettuce flavor.

You will see them in various sizes depending upon the season and region. Both of these photos are from markets in China where they are usually quite large but they can be much smaller and thinner, especially the ones you find in Chinese and Asian markets in the US

Celtuce (莴笋, wōsun) is also an essential ingredient when making the classic, traditional Pork with Garlic sauce or Yu Xiang Rou Si that originated in Chengdu. Check out The Woks of Life version of Yu Xiang Rou Si and you can see how the celtuce is prepared for the dish!

Chinese Yam or Huái Shān (山药)

Fresh Chinese yam known as huái shān (怀山) or shān yào (山药), is found in practically all vegetable markets in China and recently in Chinese grocery stores in the US as well. Personally, I (Bill) thought that this Chinese yam was called Chinese yucca and I also spelled it “Wy Shan” until I updated this page. Well, I must have been delirious while working late one night on this page because I think I may have just made that up. After some additional research, I have found that this root vegetable is in the yam family and it should be called a Chinese Yam, so I stand corrected.

We have used both fresh and dried Chinese yam many times for our own healthy Chinese soups but we don’t have any published recipes using it yet, so a recipe using Chinese Yam is something we’re hoping to post soon.

Winter Melon (冬瓜)

Winter melon or dōng guā (冬瓜) is a type of squash or gourd that come in many shapes and shades of green rind. Winter melons are vaguely similar to a watermelon except they are fuzzy on the outside. The inside flesh is white and pleasantly sweet. It’s usually used in pork bone soup for its health benefits, but it’s also very tender and tasty when boiled.

So, next time you come across some winter melon at your local Chinese grocery store, try Judy’s recipe for Chinese Winter Melon Soup with Meatballs!

Ridged Luffa (丝瓜)

Angled luffa, Chinese okra, and ridged gourd are all names I have seen for this ridged luffa. The Chinese ridged luffa or sī guā (丝瓜) is usually cooked in a chicken broth, sometimes with fried tofu or wheat gluten, and sometimes stir-fried with meats. It has a rough skin, so it’s best to use a vegetable peeler and take off most of the ridges before cooking. We have it every once in a while, but a recipe hasn’t made its way onto the blog yet, mostly because this is one of those very Chinese vegetables that has barely hit the mainstream of authentic Chinese restaurants, let alone the kitchens of home cooks.

Bill here for a little impromptu story time! Around the time when I first met Judy, I went to meet her family for the first time. They lived in a multi-family house in Brooklyn at the time and had small back yard. Being the country boy from upstate New York, I brought over some ridged luffa seeds and three bags of cow manure compost to plant them in. Now, why I chose to plant this ridged luffa I do not know, nor do I remember, but we emptied the bags of manure and planted the seeds (most average future son-in-laws would simply bring over a bag of oranges and call it a day). A couple of weeks after the seeds germinated, the vines started to grow like mad–we’re talkin’ Jack-and-the-Beanstalk level crazy growth, but still with no flowers and no luffas. But the vine just got bigger and bigger until it expanded to cover the entire back of the house and run down the wall of the building next to it. Then one weekend, we were welcomed by the most beautiful yellow blooms–there must have been fifty of them–and soon the luffas exploded en masse. We must have picked twenty of them every week! Needless to say, we were all a little sick of luffa after that summer.

Sponge Luffa (丝瓜)

The smooth Chinese luffa, like the Chinese ridged luffa, is also referred to as sī guā(丝瓜), sometimes referred to as the dishcloth/sponge gourd (charming names, eh?) is similar in taste and texture to the ridged luffa, but a bit more tender. It’s a little bit easier to prepare than the ridged luffa since it doesn’t have those long tough ridges. In China, it’s actually preferred over the ridged luffa. If left to grow on the vine, it gets so large and tough that you can actually dry it out and use it as a natural sponge! That aside, it is good eating when harvested at the right time (though we would understand if you wanted to try and cut down on sponge costs).

Opo squash or Long squash

We have cultivated this Opo squash in our garden and they are so easy to grow – almost too easy because with one plant, you can harvest dozens. We call them Chinese long squash because we have only seen them in Chinese grocery stores! They are quite tender and mild-tasting as long as they are harvested when small (less than 12 inches long). They are similar to zucchini in texture but even more mild in taste and are perfect for making vegetable noodles like in our Vegetable Noodles With Shrimp recipe.

Fresh Chinese Black Mushrooms (冬菇)

These days, you can buy these black mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms fresh in Asian grocery stores. The Chinese black mushroom is called dōng gū (冬菇) in Chinese, literally “winter mushroom” while the higher quality shiitake variety is called huā gū (花菇) or “flower mushroom”. Dōng gū black mushrooms are usually less fleshy than the higher quality shiitake mushrooms that are described in more detail in the next entry below. We use both varieties in everything–from noodle and rice dishes to stews. They add a meaty, umami deliciousness to any dish. Just remember that dried mushrooms will always have a much stronger flavor and taste than fresh mushrooms. That said, dried mushrooms can be a bit more rubbery while fresh mushrooms will have a more soft and tender texture. We love them in our Soy Sauce Butter Pasta with Shrimp and Shiitakes and in our Mushroom Noodles.

In Beijing, fresh mushroom were quite cheap as you can see in the picture (8 Yuan or Chinese dollars roughly converts to $1.29 for slightly over a pound). But we did learn in China to not be fooled by cheap prices; we had to make sure that the mushrooms were not only cheap but also that they had not been previously washed. Vendors would wash them so they would soak up some additional water and weigh just a little bit more. Soon we learned to be more careful and we regularly purchased fresh mushrooms from a trusted vendor and dried them in our apartment in Beijing. Fresh mushrooms are also quite common here in the US, and when they are in season (and on sale), we can still dry them here as well. Generally speaking, the longer they are dried, the more fragrant they become.

Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms (香菇)

The Shiitake mushroom, called xiāng gū (香菇) or in Chinese, is a fancier variety that is referred to in Chinese as flower mushrooms or “fa gu”. These are closer in variety to the Japanese Shiitake mushroom and are generally meatier and thicker than the Chinese variety. Both have their uses in cooking but the higher quality Shiitake mushrooms are more expensive and used mostly during holiday or special occasions. The ones below are the dried shiitake mushrooms which are also called “fa gu” in Cantonese dialect, but so they look quite similar in their fresh state. In Mandarin, they are called huā gū (花菇) in Chinese, literally “flower mushroom” as they have a flowery pattern. These higher quality Shiitake mushrooms tend to be thicker and more meaty than the Chinese black mushrooms. Also remember that fresh mushrooms will not have as strong a flavor or fragrance than the dried mushrooms, so choose wisely depending upon the dish you are cooking!

Enoki Mushrooms (金针菇)

These long, thin white enoki mushrooms have a crisp texture and very small caps and are also know in Chinese cooking as golden needle mushrooms or jīn zhēn gū (金针菇). You can find these fresh mushrooms in the grocery stores but they also come in cans as well. They’re often used in stir-fries and soups. Because they have such a mild flavor, you can pretty much add them to whatever you want!

Enoki mushrooms have many uses in Chinese cooking but you must try this Enoki Mushrooms with Garlic & Scallion Sauce where these golden needle mushrooms or jīn zhēn gū (金针菇) are the star of the dish!

King Mushrooms

Over the years, we have learned to like King Mushrooms, sometimes called King Trumpet mushrooms. With their subtle mushroom flavor and meaty texture, king mushrooms are often used as a meat substitute. Since the bulk of the mushroom is its stem, usually, you can’t tell what the meaty pieces in a stir fried dish until the chef or cook says “It’s King Mushrooms!”

King mushrooms seem to be named as such because of their massive stems. These are substantial and very versatile mushrooms–you can pan-fry them, stir-fry them, braise them steam them, or grill them. Try them in one of our vegan dishes, Kung Pao Mushrooms.

Straw Mushrooms (草菇)

Straw mushrooms or cǎo gū (草菇) come in various forms and are usually canned. They actually can look like small quail eggs when unopened and in that state are virtually impossible to pick us with your chopsticks. However, they are are also found in a peeled state and look more like a mushroom we are used to seeing. The flavor and slightly crunchy texture of these straw mushrooms are delightful as an ingredient in a stir fried meat and vegetable dish. Pictured below are good quality mushrooms that some Asian grocery stored sell by the pound.

Straw mushrooms are often available fresh in China and other parts of Asia. They are grown on rice straw beds and picked during the button or egg phase and before the veil ruptures. As you can see from the photo below, they look more like little eggs than mushrooms when they are fresh and in this premature stage but when they develop further and open up, they take on their characteristic umbrella mushroom shape.

You can find these peeled straw mushrooms in cans as well but be sure to buy a reputable brand as we have purchased some brands that are low quality with broken pieces where you can barely tell they are straw mushrooms. The Amazon link below have decent buyer ratings and you can probably find the same brand at your local Asian store.

Roland Whole Peeled Straw Mushrooms, 15-Ounce Cans (Pack of 8)

Straw mushrooms are usually added to a dish to enhance flavor and appearance like Bill’s Seafood Bird Nest banquet dish.

Kelp Seaweed (海带)

Kelp seaweed or hǎi dài (海带) is produced mostly in China and cultivated and harvested from the sea in large sheets. Kelp seaweed comes in many dried forms but this variety shown here is available both in dried and reconstituted form pictured below from a local Chinese market.

Banana Flower

This is an ingredient used in traditional Pad Thai recipes, but because they are relatively hard to find, it’s rare that they are served here in the US. Where we live, there are quite a few Asian grocery stores but at the time that we made our Shrimp Pad Thai, we couldn’t get our hands on any, though authentic recipes to call for it. We didn’t think that it was even available here in the US, but we did see them by chance at an H Mart about an hour’s drive from us. We still have not tried using it for Pad Thai or any other dishes but at least we now know we can get it!

Water Bamboo – Jiao Bai (茭白)

Water bamboo or jiāo bái is a type of water bamboo found commonly in China and is prepared in similar ways are other types of bamboo. Jiao Bai is also called gāo sǔn (高笋) and is actually the overgrown stem of Manchurian wild rice from what I read on Wikipedia. Found all over China and now in the US as well, it is particularly popular among the Shanghainese. Jiao Bai is commonly stir-fried but it can also be prepared similar to our Braised Spring Bamboo Shoots (油焖笋) recipe.

Tea Tree Mushroons (茶树菇)

Fresh Tea tree mushrooms or chá shù gū (茶树菇) are commonly found in China and I have never seen the fresh variety in the US. The good news is that these are found in dried form and be constituted.

List of Root Vegetables: 11 Favourites plus Recipes

During the winter months it’s always good to have a hardy selection of root vegetables on hand in the kitchen.

Whether you want to bulk up a stew, make a velvety root mash or rustle up some fragrant roast root vegetables and harness some of those wonderful earthy flavours, it’s always good to be reminded that there’s a vast list of root vegetables to pick and choose from.

With this in mind, we have created list capturing a selection of the most delicious and nutritious underground gifts from mother nature.

From asian root vegetables to red coloured root vegetables and the humble carrot, here’s a taster for what could be on your plate this season, along with some delicious recipes.

List of Root Vegetables

1. Beetroots

Raw, cooked or pickled … there aren’t many ways you can’t enjoy these vibrant and sweet round bulbs. Find out all about how to cook fresh beets or try these exciting beetroot recipes, from smoothie to haute cuisine recipes with pigeon.

2. Parsnips

If you haven’t discovered the delights of parsnips they can be enjoyed raw in winter salads as well as roasted, boiled and mashed. Find out how to cook parsnips here.

3. Celeriac

This unusual looking root vegetable is actually the root of a celery plant. It’s worth getting through that tought outer skin to reveal the crisp white interior, perfect in soups, salads or roasted. Find out how to cook celeriac here with a full list of celeriac recipes.

4. Turnips

Stuffed, pickled, baked, roasted, mashed and boiled … there are many ways to enjoy these versatile vegetables, from root to tip. Find out how to prepare turnips here.

5. Carrots

They are many ways to cook carrots, beyod salad and sides. Find out many wonderful ways to cook carrots here.

6. Potatoes

With quite literally hundreds of varieties of potatoes to choose from, these everyday root vegetables hold far more fascination than their daily fix. From pink fir potatoes to highland burgundy red, not only can you experiment with colour, but of course, texture. From fluffy to waxy, discover the best potatoes recipes from Michelin chefs.

7. Yucca

This delicious root vegetable might seem intimidating if you’ve never cooked with it but it’s just as versatile as potatoes. Here are some tips to get you started: How to cook yuca.

8. Daikon Radish

If you’ve never tried this Asian root vegetable, it’s like a spicier take on a carrot. What’s more it comes with some impressive nutritional credentials. How to cook daikon radish

9. Salsify

Umami packed salsify is the stalky root vegetable with an oyster like flavour when it’s cooked. Try cooking with this tasty root in some salsify recipes.

10. Fennel

These subtle aniseed bulbs can be eaten raw or cooked, and are right at home in Italian cooking. Find out how to prepare these fennel bulbs here.

11. Onions

The stalwart of the vegetable basket needs little introduction. But how well do you actually know your onions? Here are 21 types of onions to discover plus Michelin chefs cooking onions in many ways.

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