Aug 23, 2017 By Ian Rynex , eChinacities.com

What could be more riveting than vegetables? Shortly, you will discover just how interesting, not to mention delicious and nutritious, Chinese vegetables can be. Here I will present seven typical Chinese vegetables, how to cook them, and what Western vegetables they most closely resemble.

Yùtou (芋头)


Source:Wikimedia

Yùtou (commonly known as taro outside of China) is native to southeast Asia but now widely naturalized. It is cultivated throughout Asia, Oceania, India and Africa as a root vegetable for its starchy edible corm (tuber root) and less commonly for its leaves.

Chinese Dishes Using Yùtou

In China, Yùtou is commonly served as a simple snack that is steamed and dabbed in sugar, a mix of sugar and ground nuts, or sesame seeds. It is also used in Cantonese dim sum to form taro cakes, which can be made using different meats (commonly pork), mushrooms, chopped shrimp, rice flour and oyster sauce.

Western Vegetables Similar to Yùtou

Western vegetables that are similar to Yùtou include cassava root, parsnip and sweet potato. Therefore Yùtou is a great Chinese vegetable to choose if you’re making a hearty stew, a mash or a roast.

Lián'ǒu (莲藕)


Source: Wikimedia

Lián'ǒu, or lotus root, is the root of the iconic lotus flower, an aquatic perennial that’s naturally occurring throughout Asia and Oceania.

Chinese Dishes Using Lián'ǒu

Lián'ǒu is prepared in many different fashions in various Chinese dishes. In Hangzhou, Crystal Sugar Lotus Root with Sticky Rice is a very popular delicacy, comprising steamed lián'ǒu stuffed with glutinous rice. There is also Crispy Lotus Root with Pork, which is made up of ground pork, soy sauce, sesame oil, Shaoxing wine, scallions and ginger. The lotus root is battered with corn starch and fried.

Western Vegetables Similar to Lián'ǒu

Chestnuts, Jerusalem artichokes and Asian water chestnuts have a similar crunchy texture to Lián’ǒu. You’ll find Lián’ǒu great for adding some crunch to your stir fries, stews or slaws.

Bái luóbo (白萝卜)

Commonly known as Daikon in the west, bái luóbo is a mild flavored radish native to southeast and continental China. Also known as winter radish, varieties of this hardy root vegetable are cultivated around the world thanks to its tolerance for cold and warm temperatures.

Chinese Dishes Containing Bái Luóbo

In Chinese cuisine, bái luóbo is utilized mostly in soups with pork or beef rib and other vegetables. One of the most common variants, pork rib soup, is made of chopped and boiled bái luóbo, dōngguā (Chinese watermelon), carrots and pork rib. Turnip cake, or luóbo gāo, is another popular dish, made of the shredded radish, rice flour and/or corn starch and water to help it bind. It is then steamed in a grease-lined aluminum tin for about 40 minutes. Sometimes minced meat and mushrooms are added for extra flavor.

Western Vegetables Similar to Bái Luóbo

Simple white radishes and turnips are the most similar Western vegetables to Chinese Bai Luóbo. You can cut the raw vegetable very finely to use in salads or add it to soups.

Qiézi (茄子)


Source: Stacy Spensley

Qiézi, or Chinese eggplant, is distinguished by its lush purple color and long slender shape. The Chinese variety, as you may expect, is found mainly in China, though other varieties are quite similar.

Chinese Dishes Using Qiézi

Làjiāo qiézi (spicy peppers and eggplant) is one of the most popular dishes in China, and this writer’s personal favorite. It is made of chopped eggplant, peppers, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and sometimes bean paste, corn starch (to thicken the sauce), and a small amount of black vinegar, cooking wine and sugar. Other qiézi dishes offer a battered and pan fried variety that includes beaten eggs, all-purpose flour, scallions, minced ginger and pork. Another common dish sees the qiézi sliced in half, slathered in a garlic and ginger paste and steamed.

Western Vegetables Similar to Qiézi

Obviously eggplants are the most similar Western vegetable to qiézi. There is actually very little difference, except the constancy of qiézi tends to be a little more loose when cooked.

Kǔguā (苦瓜)

Kǔguā, or bitter melon, is technically a fruit, but we shan’t be too picky about that because it’s such an interesting fixture of Chinese cuisine. This tropical and subtropical vine plant is commonly grown in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. It has long been utilized in Hindu, African and Chinese medicine, and is considered helpful in treating a variety of ailments, including diabetes, stomach ache and skin problems. Modern nutritionists use it as an aid for lowering blood sugar levels and promoting weight loss. Be warned though, as the name suggests, bitter melon is somewhat of an acquired taste.

Chinese Dishes Using Kǔguā
Most Chinese dishes involving kǔguā are simply stir fries with various vegetables and/or eggs or pork. Typical flavoring such as salt, soy sauce and vinegar are often used, as well as sugar to balance out the kǔguā’s strong flavor.

Western Vegetables Similar to Kǔguā

Although it is also primarily an Asia-specific plant, winter melon is more commonly found in the West. Use kǔguā in stir fried dishes and omelets or whiz up in a smoothie if you hate the taste but want the health benefits.

Zhúsǔn (竹笋)


Source: Sarah

No discussion of Chinese veggies would be complete without an honorable mention of zhúsǔn, or bamboo shoots. Bamboo is a fast growing and distinctive plant native to Asia and the most emblematic of Asian flora. It contains natural toxins which must be cooked out, most commonly through boiling, before being eaten. Young shoots are sought after for their relatively sweet taste and crisp texture, while older shoots possess a bitter acrid taste.

Chinese Dishes Using Zhúsǔn

Bamboo shoots are used in soups, pickles or stir fries. A great Chinese dish with zhúsǔn is Braised Bamboo Shoots, which consists of fresh or frozen bamboo shoots, sliced ginger, sugar, soy sauce and water.

Western Vegetables Similar to Zhúsǔn

Like the lotus root, chestnuts and Jerusalem artichokes are the most similar Western vegetables to zhúsǔn. Use them to add some crunch to your stir fries, stews or salads.

Qīngcài (青菜)

Qīngcài, one of the two varieties of bok choy, is a winter-hardy, leafy green vegetable grown throughout Southeast and East Asia and, now, Northern Europe. This variety is commonly used in stir fried dishes or on its own sautéed in garlic, while the Báicài (白菜) variety is more commonly pickled and used in soups.

Chinese Dishes Using Qīngcài

Qīngcài is great simply sautéed, steamed, or grilled. A super simple and delicious qīngcài  dish consists of separated leaves, chopped or sliced garlic, and soy sauce. The báicài variety is more commonly used in stir fries or soups with other vegetables and meat.

Western Vegetables Similar to Qīngcài

Swiss chard, collard greens, beet greens and spinach are the most common Western vegetables similar to bok choy and qīngcài. Steam, boil or sauté some to serve on the side of a meat or fish dish or with an egg-based breakfast.

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Keywords: common vegetables china chinese vegetables

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