Sweeter, crunchier, crispier

Global cuisine is making a splash in American fare, and Asian trends are riding high on the wave into the mainstream. Tempt consumer taste buds during the upcoming Chinese New Year with flavors from the sweet, warm, woody depths of ginger to the high peaks of zesty citrus. Let’s take a look at Asian produce as the Year of the Dog descends upon us...


 

NAPA CABBAGE

A staple ingredient in many Asian cuisines, this cabbage has a sweet, mild flavor that can be used in soups, as filling in egg rolls, and eaten raw in salads. The crunchy, unique texture of its leaves continues to make this cabbage one of the most sought-after ingredients in Asian cuisine.

 

 WATER CHESTNUTS

This holiday favorite is usually found in marshes, and its crunchy texture is associated with a mildly sweet flavor. Try boiling or steaming this veg to use in soups, salads, and stews; peel before use in stir-fry.

 

 SHANGHAI BOK CHOY
AND BABY BOK CHOY

A common misconception is that these two versatile varieties are one-and-the-same, with interchangeable names. Truth: both are visually and flavorfully different. In Asian stores, Baby Bok Choy is the more widely available variety, while Shanghai Bok Choy is more popular in Shanghai cuisine. Baby Bok Choy has white, crunchy stems and dark, spinach-like leaves. Shanghai Bok Choy has uniform light green stems, spoon-shaped leaves, and a more mild flavor than Baby Bok Choy.

 

 CHINESE EGGPLANT

Tender, versatile, and widely used across multiple cuisines, Chinese eggplant is unlike many varieties. The vegetable offers a tender skin that does not have to be peeled, which preserves the texture, taste, and shape of the eggplant. The item has several different preparation methods to fit your fancy—from baking or broiling, to stir-frying or deep frying.

 

 KUMQUATS

Literally translated to “golden orange” in Chinese, this tiny specialty citrus item has sweet, edible skin and a tart inner-flesh. Kumquats also provide an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber, as well as calcium and iron. Like Navel oranges and mandarins, this citrus item is said to bring luck, wealth, and prosperity.

 

 

BUDDHA'S HAND

Though it looks to be more of a Halloween-suited fruit, this item is one of the oldest citrus fruits on record. Coveted for its sweet, floral fragrance and mild zest with little-to-no flesh or juice, Buddha’s Hand is all rind and pith. Think of it more as a presentation piece, although the rind can be candied or used in baking and other recipes. Buddha’s Hands are also used as offerings in temples during the holiday. Like cocktails? This is a great ingredient for infusing into spirits.

 

 GAI LAN
(CHINESE BROCCOLI)

Chinese broccoli’s distinct, sharp flavor and long, leafy characteristics set this produce item apart from more common varieties. Steamed, boiled, or stir-fried, this vegetable is a great addition to any dish.

 

 CHINESE LONG BEANS

Also known as Yardlong Beans, these are firmer and longer than regular green beans, and are actually more closely related to black-eyed peas. Chinese Long Beans provide a great source of fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C. This versatile vegetable can be used in multiple preparation methods, from stir-frying, steaming, and boiling, to a snack or salad ingredient.

 

 DAIKON RADISH

Looking for good fortune? This vegetable may be beneficial to have around. A fundamental part of Asian cuisine—this veggie has a mild flavor, crispy texture, and a powerful earthy aroma. The flavor tends to vary throughout the vegetable, as the bottom is usually the most poignant and the top is the sweetest.

 

SNOW PEAS

Most often either sautéed or stir-fried, snow peas are one of the easiest vegetables to prepare, and have a sweet, crisp flavor. Their versatility and plentiful health benefits make snow peas a great addition to a healthy diet, and can be eaten raw as a delicious snack.

 

 DAU MIU
(SNOW PEA SHOOTS)

Snow pea shoots are a bit grassier than snow peas, but crisp in flavor and freshness. Try them in soups, stir-fried, or steamed.

 

 GINGER

Valued for its spicy flavor and medicinal benefits, ginger can be sliced or grated to add zest to Asian dishes. Try combining ginger with soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic to make a flavorful salad dressing.

 

OPO SQUASH

This Asian squash, also known as a bottle gourd, is native to the cuisines of China and Southeast Asia, and is similar to a zucchini with a very mild flavor. Prepare as you would zucchini or other soft-shelled squash, and add this delicious source of vitamin C to soups or stir-frys. As a symbol of good health, longevity, and good fortune in Chinese tradition, this item brings both flavor and differentiation to produce departments as we move into the New Year.