|Sweet and sour chinese leaves|
Sweet and sour Chinese leaves
Did I mention that ‘sweet and sour’ dishes in Northeast China are actually called ‘vinegar and sugar’? Ha… This is one of that ‘vinegar and sugar’ dishes, but with a spicy touch.
It is a very traditional dish in North Chinese cuisine — have I said too many times of ‘traditional’ :) :)… but this is really another one, and special one.
Chinese leaves are called ‘bai cai’ in North China, which means ‘white vegetable’ (even if the lower part of the leaves is actually green).
Its pronunciation in Cantonese is ‘Pok choi’, but what they call ‘Pok choi’ is actually another kind of vegetable in North China. — So complicated, what I am saying is that if you are in a restaurant in North China, don’t be confused when making an order. :)
‘Bai Cai’ is one of most popular ingredients in Northeast food, especially for winter dishes. It is originated in North, and normally harvest is in late autumn.
Because of the very cold winter, there used to be a lack of fresh vegetables in North China between Dec to Feb, so people came up with the idea of storing Chinese leaves: before real cold winter came, every household would buy hundreds of kilograms of Chinese leaves.
And before storing them away, they normally needed to be laid outside for a few days to get the first layer dried to void rottenness (and get rid of dried leaves only use the fresh inner leaves when cooking).
I remember when I was little, my mum would put on ‘work sleeves’ and a small apron for me, so I could be there to help, I was very proud that I became a ‘big’ girl and a (hard working) helper. :) Some of these Chinese leaves then could be ‘pickled’(the taste and texture is very similar to pickled cabbage) , while others were to be cooked in stir fry, soup, fillings for bakeries… For making them more interesting in the dishes, people invented various cooking methods.
Nowadays, there are plenty of fresh vegetables in the markets. It is no longer necessary to ‘store’ Chinese leaves. So you can rarely see a family working together for laying them outside, but all the memories remain, Chinese leaves still have an emotional attachment for Northeast people.
But saying that, Chinese leaves in North China are much bigger, the leaves are thicker, only the core part is very very juicy, which is good for making salad. In England, Chinese leaves are mainly imported from Spain, they are more juicy, not good for long time boiling in soup, but very good for quick stir fry or salad.
The recipe: Stir fried sweet and sour Chinese leaves
This is one of the dishes with ‘Bai cai’, a bit sweet and sour, and a bit spicy. It is one of those quick dish, it can be made in a few minutes — quick and healthy for a weekday’s dinner, no? :))
Chinese leaves (We normally get them in Sainsbury’s or Tesco, in Chinese supermarkets as well.)
Prawns or shrimps (optional)
Garlic, rice vinegar, white sugar, salt, oil, crushed chili, cooking wine, MSG or vegetable essence (optional)
1) Tear only the outer layers of Chinese leaves (they are better than the core part for stir frying), wash and chop them into small pieces, shake off extra water.
2) Prepare a handful shrimps or prawns, but it is an option, if you like it vegan.
3) Chop 3 gloves garlic (or more) into slices.
(The fire is relatively strong for this dish.)
1) In a heated wok, pour in (around) 5 tablespoons of oil.
2) When oil is hot, put in half or one teaspoon of crushed chili, depends on how spicy you like, or you can leave it out.
3) Then, put the sliced garlic in.
4) When the smell of the garlic comes out, put prawns or shrimps in, following by chopped Chinese leaves ‘Baicai’.
5) Then pour in around 2 teaspoons of cooking wine, stir well, then put 3/4 teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of sugar, 2 tablespoons of vinegar.
|Stir fried Chinese leaves|
6) Stir everything well, and let the seasoning settle with the leaves for 1 or 2 minutes, then put in half teaspoon of MSG or vegetable essence (optional) before removing the dish to a plate.
—- Have a good meal!!
The leaves are not supposed to be very soft, but rather crunchy and juicy. This dish is best with rice, or flat Chinese bread. :)
- Chinese leaves
- Prawns or shrimps (optional)
- rice vinegar
- white sugar
- crushed chili
- cooking wine
- MSG or vegetable essence (optional)
- Tear the outer layers of Chinese leaves, wash and chop them into small pieces, shake off extra water.
- Prepare a handful shrimps or prawns.
- Chop 3 gloves garlic into slices.
- In a heated wok, pour in (around) 5 tablespoons of oil.
- When oil is hot, put in half or one teaspoon of crushed chili.
- Then, put the sliced garlic in.
- When the smell of the garlic comes out, put prawns or shrimps in, followed by chopped Chinese leaves ‘Baicai’.
- Pour in around 2 teaspoons of cooking wine, stir well
- Add ¾ teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of sugar, 2 tablespoons of vinegar.
- Stir everything well, and let the seasoning settle with the leaves for 1 or 2 minutes.