From tart kumquat to tender eggplant, crisp snow peas to craveable ginger, Asian fruits and vegetables have been gaining ground in North America as consumers look to global cuisines for palate-expanding offerings. And with Chinese New Year—or Spring Festival—peaking February 5th and the Year of the Pig boding big appetites, produce departments can stoke sales with supplies of these categories.
Literally translated to “golden orange” from Cantonese, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 piquant and the top is the sweetest.
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.
GAI LAN (CHINESE BROCCOLI)
Chinese broccoli’s distinct, sharp flavor and long, leafy shape set this produce item apart from more common varieties. Steamed, boiled, or stir-fried, this vegetable is a great addition to any dish.
Though it looks to be more of a Halloween-suited fruit, this item is one of the oldest citrus items 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.
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.
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.
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.
BABY BOK CHOY & SHANGHAI 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 and is a miniature-sized (baby) version of the fully-grown Bok Choy. Shanghai Bok Choy has uniform light green stems, spoon-shaped leaves, and a milder flavor than Baby Bok Choy.
CHINESE LONG BEANS
Also known as Yardlong Beans, these are firmer and longer than regular green beans, and hold up really well to the high heats used in stir frying. Chinese long beans are actually more closely related to black-eyed peas and 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.