Saturday, March 10, 2012

Silver silk and red flowering Chinese cabbage

Last week I bought 2 “new” vegetables. Actually there were not really “new” but variants of the Chinese flowering cabbage.
Chinese flowering cabbage is the most common local leafy vegetable and you can find it almost all year round.

Flowering Chinese cabbage / choi-sâm / 菜心 (vegetable – centre/heart)

At the beginning of the week I saw a red colour flowering Chinese cabbage at one of my favourite stalls in Mongkok.

Red flowering Chinese cabbage – hùnhg-choi-sâm - 红菜心

Similarly to yard long beans or eyebrow beans which come in green and purple, there is also a purple version (red in Chinese) of flowering Chinese cabbage.  Its stems are purple, its leaves a nice bluish-purple but its tiny flowers are of the same yellow colour as its green cousin.

It cost much more than the ordinary green type ($28/catty* versus $10-12/catty) but I liked the lovely colour and thought it would be nice to have a colourful dish on the table that evening.

I simply boiled the red flowering Chinese cabbage in salted water for a few minutes with garlic and served it with a dash of oyster sauce on top. However the vegetable turned green after cooking and, as you have guessed, the water turned red. I suddenly recalled that the purple yard long beans that I had bought last summer at the same stall had also turned green after cooking. I should have known better. But wait…I remember that the purple eyebrow beans had kept its nice colour!
In my disappointment I forgot to take a photo! 

I found the taste of the red variety sweeter than the green but not worth the price difference.  

* 1 catty (一斤 - yât-gàn ) equals ~600 grams.

A few days later while doing my market in Tai Po I found another veggie which had the same yellow flowers as the flowering Chinese cabbage but had yellowish green big curly leaves and large white stems.

Silver silk flowering Chinese cabbage - ngàhn-sî-choi-sâm - 银絲菜心
After asking the seller the latter told me that indeed it was another variety of flowering Chinese cabbage and its name was ngàhn-sî-choi-sâm - 银絲菜心 (silver-silk-vegetable-heart).
I paid HK$14 for one catty, which is slightly more than for the green type but still cheaper than the red type bought at Mongkok a few days before.

I cooked the silver-silk exactly the same way as the red variety, i.e. boiled and served with a dash of oyster sauce. It tasted more like Savoy cabbage and not that much like flowering Chinese cabbage (choi-sâm –菜心).

Boiled silver silk flowering Chinese cabbage with oyster sauce
Verdict: I was pleased with the latest vegetable I found. I am not a big fan of choi-sâm but liked the silver silk variety very much and would not mind buying it again. As for the red (purple) cousin I’d rather look at its attractive colour at the wet market (in its raw form).


  1. Boiling purple/reddish vegetables (beets & aubergines) will make them lose their pretty colour.
    Not a fan of choi sum either, but try quick stir-frying them next time to retain its brilliant hue ;-)

    1. Good point! Love stir-fry veggies but difficult to do it well at home. I will give another chance to those red choi-sâm.