Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chinese Vegetables

When I recall how I got to know about the different vegetables Hong Kong has to offer “A popular Guide to Chinese Vegetables” by Martha Dahlen, came immediately to my mind. Martha’s book helped me a lot and I highly recommend it to any newcomer in Hong Kong


During my first 6 months in Hong Kong (my husband and I were living with my in-laws) my mother-in-law would go everyday to the wet market on Wanchai Road (daaih-gâai-síh / 大街市 ). She thought that it was too dirty for a foreigner and never invited me to join her. I suspect that she was afraid I would be disgusted and hurry back to France abandoning her poor son! I realised that it was more of a chore for her and would not imagine I might like it.

So I explored Wanchai Road wet market by myself {without really buying things}. As you know, I wrote it many times (too many?) I love wet markets. I did not mind at all the smells and the slippery pavements of daaih-gâai-síh although it was quite a scene. I realised that wet markets were really WET as the floor of the meat and fish stalls were washed frequently. I loved the colourful displays and how the vendors piled up their goods. No space was wasted. Some vendors were so crafty. They built pyramids with fresh eggs! Awesome! 
However, the butchers’ stalls were quite a shock to me. They looked a bit messy and the meat seemed not appetising yet there were clean and no flies were around.

The weigh unit was different. The catty (yat1 gan1 一斤) is used in Hong Kong and it equals about 600gr. Furthermore, many produces, particularly fish and meat, had no tag to indicate their name and price/catty. Anyway, even if there had been tags, I would not have been able to read them! <Smile> 

Once we moved on our own my husband and I went together to wet markets. Sometimes my husband would ask me to pretend that we were not together as he said the vendors would charge more if he was seen with a gwái pòh (ghost-lady or foreigner). I did not like staying behind and found it ridiculous (even if it was true sometimes). We (he) would ask the vendors how to cook the veggies we were buying. They would explain us (him) in a few words. It always seemed so easy and quick to cook Chinese food.
Buying and bargaining (trying to!) was also the time to practise speaking Cantonese. In fact I learnt to say the names of vegetables and 1-20 fast. Some vendors were so kind as to spend time teaching me how to express numbers with finger gestures.

Then in early 1988 I bought “A popular Guide to Chinese Vegetables” after meeting the author through a friend of mine. From this book I learnt how to make simple and popular Cantonese dishes. I was so thrilled to be able to finally manage by myself.

Recently I flipped through Martha’s book and was surprised to see a few veggies that I had never cooked before.
Here is my wish list of the veggies I would like to try (cook) in 2012. I will present them in separate posts.

  1. White wormwood jân jyû choi 珍珠菜
  2. Stem lettuce wô seún 萵筍
  3. Wild rice shoots gâau seún 胶筍
  4. Dracontomelum yàhn minh 人面
  5. Arrowhead tubers chìh gû 慈姑   
If you have a way to use one of the above-listed veggies and would like to share it on my blog, please send me your recipe or the link to your website (if you have one) and I will add it to my post on to this vegetable.

Thanks for reading and sharing!


1 comment:

  1. This looks like a book I need on my bookshelf! Would you know where I could buy it in HK?