Monday, April 8, 2013

Malabar spinach 蠶菜 / Slippery veggie 潺菜

Malabar spinach 蠶菜 / Slippery veggie 潺菜
You might have seen this vegetable at wet markets in Hong Kong. It is currently available (in early spring) but not every stall is selling it.
It is called “slippery vegetable” or saa`hn choi 潺菜 in Cantonese. Some people called it “Malabar spinach” or “Ceylon spinach” (chaa`hm-choi in Cantonese - 蠶菜 means wormwood-vegetable). The scientific name is Basella Alba and it belongs to the basellaceae family (group of flowering plants).
I recently learnt from my Facebook friends (from Taiwan) that it was called “皇帝菜” wo`hng-dai-choi (emperor-vegetable) in Taiwan, which is definitely more elegant than “slippery” vegetable, right? However, in PRC, 皇帝菜 refers to another vegetable called Garland Chrysanthemum (or tu`hng-hou1 in Cantonese 茼蒿).

Malabar spinach has large dark green leaves and very thick central stems. Its taste is quite bland and its texture smooth and oily (though not as slimy as okra), hence its Cantonese nickname.
I make a very light soup with this veggie. The vendor at the wet market I bought it from told me that I could also stir-fry it. This was confirmed by my FB friends who told me that they like to sauté Malabar spinach with garlic and mix a few dashes of sesame oil just before serving it.

Slippery Vegetable Soup

(for 2 persons) 
  1. Put 6 rice bowls of water in large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Add 2 blocks of soft bean curd, 1 slice of ginger (crushed) and ~ 200g sliced lean pork. Bring to a boil, reduce fire, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add vegetable (~1 ) 500-600g in and cook for another 5-8 minutes. (Keep leaves and stems).
  4. Add salt to taste.
This quick-cooked soup can be made in a very short time.
You can also remove the vegetable and cook Udon noodles (thick wheat-flour noodles) in the broth. This makes a “healthy” and light dinner.



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