A Cook's Guide to Chinese Vegetables
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This book provides practical information for someone buying fresh produce in a Chinese or Asian market. The seasonal variety of roots, shoots, greens and melons can be fascinating but ultimately daunting. What is it? How do I choose a good one? Should it be green or yellow, soft or hard? Peeled or left whole? And then, how to serve it?? Is that the flavor it should have, or have I done something wrong? The following pages attempt to answer these questions clearly and concisely. They also attempt to describe how the Chinese prepare vegetables that we consider “Western”. Vegetables do not, after all, owe allegiance to any one nation or culture; preparing the veg you know in ways you hadn’t though of can be an adventure too.
Each vegetable’s description includes cooking advice for preparing it in both Western and Chinese styles. Many include recipes. For the Chinese comments, both advice and recipes come from Hong Kong cooks—friends, mothers, mothers of friends, and even vegetable vendors (in Hong Kong, it seems, everyone has a recipe!). Consequently the ‘recipes’ tend to be general guidelines rather than elaborate formulas. Good cooking comes from experience—both in choosing fresh produce, and in the actual preparation--plus good taste, and both develop over time.
In addition, each vegetable’s description includes brief comments on its nature in terms of Chinese concepts of nutrition. Following this Foreword, there is a brief section describing these concepts in more detail. The essential nature of the foodstuff and its effects on the body as an energy system are not only fundamental to Chinese cooking but also, simply, what every Cantonese housewife knows. How a vegetable or an ingredient acts in the body as it is digested influences what ingredients are cooked together, in what season they are served, and to whom they are served. These are principles of nutrition in dynamic, living systems that have been tested over centuries. Modern Western cuisine, it seems, has nothing comparable. Interestingly, applying these principles produces meals that are not only nutritious but also extraordinarily delicious.