Chinese vegetables come in a variety of intriguing shapes, sizes and textures from fuzzy melon to the tender young shoots of the bamboo plant such as Chinese cabbage, bok choy, mustard greens, winter radish, snow peas, yard-long beans, and varieties of melons, eggplant and cucumbers, among others. These vegetables are becoming more familiar to an increasingly diverse population and the popularity of ethnic foods. Many Chinese vegetables will grow well in the home garden. Here are various types of Chinese vegetables for your reference.
1. Bok Choy(白菜)
China's most popular vegetable, bok choy has a light, sweet flavor and crisp texture. Bok choy (also called pak choi) is used to enhance everything from soups to stir-fries: you can even deep-fry it! Nutritionally, like most leafy green vegetables, bok choy is a good source of iron. It is also high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and calcium.
2. Chinese Cabbage(卷心菜)
A leafy vegetable also known as snow cabagge, is very common and can be found at the supermarket. Great stir-fried with your choice of sauce and condiment, in salads or pickled.
Chinese varieties of cucumbers are usually thin, long and with smaller seeds than standard American slicers. The skin may have ridges or be smooth. They are generally not bitter and have a very pleasant slightly sweet taste. They are best grown on a trellis to produce straight fruit. Otherwise, grow them as you would regular slicing cucumbers.
4. Chinese Broccoli(西兰花)
Cantonese calls broccoli Sai Lan Far. Far means flower in Cantonese because brocolli has a large flower head. Sai means west, Lan means orchid. Since this vegetable is brought into China from the European countries around 19th Century so that's how it gets its name.
5. Soy Bean Sprouts(黄豆芽)
A common vegetable in Chinese cooking, soy bean sprouts are rich in vitamins A, B and C. They can be eaten raw in salads, also popular in stir-fried dishes.
6. Silk Squash(丝瓜)
A long thin squash with sharp ridges, silk squash is also called Chinese okra and angled luffa. Only immature silk squash are eaten, as older silk squash have a bitter taste. Like fuzzy melon, silk squash can be stuffed with pork and steamed. However, it is more commonly stir-fried or deep-fried. Feel free to substitute silk squash in recipes calling for cooked zucchini or okra, and to use okra as a substitute if silk squash is unavailable.
7. White Radish(白萝卜)
They look more like carrots than the little round red radishes. Rich in calcium and vitamin C, they are used in stir-fries, added to soups or in turnip cake.
8. Chinese Lettuce(莴苣)
This is Chinese Lettuce. Taiwanese people call it A Choy. Cantonese people call it Yau Mak Choy. Its young leaves are very tender and main stalks are very crispy. Its appearance looks similar to lettuce but with more length leaves.
9. Chinese Mushrooms(菌类食物)
Chinese mushrooms have a somewhat stronger flavor and they need to be soaked in warm water for at least half an hour to soften them before use.
10. Lotus Root(莲藕)
The lotus is an aquatic plant that grows in marshes and shallow ponds. The tuberous root of the plant is found in the mud below the surface. The exterior of the root is not particularly attractive, resembling a large, buff colored link of sausages, with each link about 8 inches long. Lotus root adds a crisp texture and sweet flavor to Chinese stir-fries, soups and salads, where they are often added raw. Deep-fried lotus root is a popular garnish.
11. Bamboo Shoots(竹笋)
Can be easily found canned or in jars in the asian/ethnic food aisle at your supermarket. They are very popular as an add on to stir-fries.
12. Bitter Melon(苦瓜)
Bitter melon is known for its unusual appearance and taste. This Chinese gourd resembles a cucumber with a dark green, pockmarked skin. As the name implies, it has a rather bitter taste. However, this can be lessened by blanching or degorging the melon with salt. Bitter melon is a popular ingredient in stir-fries, where it is frequently paired with other strong flavors.
13. Chinese Watercress(豆瓣菜）
Chinese watercress is apparently brought to Southern China and Macau via Spain. It has one of the highest SOD levels and is supposed to be good for the lungs. It is most common seen in soups and many like to cook till it turns mushy and dark.
14. . Chinese Eggplant(茄子)
It is the same as regular eggplant but long and skinny. Used in stir-fries or steamed. One of our favorites is Spicy Beef with Eggplant in Garlic and Black Bean Sauce. If you can't find the long and skinny kind, regular eggplant does the job.
15. Winter melon(冬瓜)
This squash-like vegetable is widely used steamed, stir fried and in a special soup served in its own shell. It is called winter melon because it will store through the winter after harvesting. The large fruit are pale sea green with a thick waxy coating, and shaped like round or oblong pumpkins.
Leeks are a member of the onion family. Despite sometimes being called "a poor man's asparagus," the thick stalked European leeks commonly found in supermarkets have a mild sweet flavor. Chinese leeks, on the other hand, are smaller and thinner, resembling a thick scallion. Their more pungent flavor makes Chinese leeks are a staple ingredient in northern Chinese cooking.
17. Snow Peas(豌豆)
Sweet and crisp, don't overcook or they become soggy. Very common in stir-fries, they are popular and easy to find at your local supermarket.