Why the Chinese Don't Count Calories

Why the Chinese Don't Count Calories by Lorraine Clissold Read Free Book Online

Book: Why the Chinese Don't Count Calories by Lorraine Clissold Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lorraine Clissold
Tags: Cooking, Regional & Ethnic, Asian, CKB090000
ganr (Chrysanthemum leaves), you mai cai and gan lan, which have no Western names to my knowledge, and various types of spinach and watercress too. While I have not seen many of the more esoteric varieties for sale in the West other than in ethnic stores, we have picked shoots of wild rape from our local farmer’s field after the major crop (which is used as animal fodder) has been harvested. Chinese leaves are pretty commonplace in the West and the popular ‘sweetheart cabbage’ is similar to the Chinese round cabbage in its cooking qualities. Xiao bai cai is increasingly available in supermarkets, sold under the Cantonese pronunciation of its name, pak choy . In the spirit of Chinese cooking, though, I have used many of our alternative brassicas and leafy greens, including curly kale and good old greens, in Chinese-style dishes.
    While only a handful of the vegetable varieties that are enjoyed in China are readily available in the West, the truth is that what you may or not be able to buy is not a fraction as important as what you are able do with it. All the white cabbage varieties are greatly enhanced by a touch of ginger and chilli or sweet and sour seasonings. Dried chilli spices up both the green and the white types and can also be used with Western spring greens or kale. Cabbage needs to be well cooked, until the leaves wilt, but overcooking makes the flavour too strong. Cumin can add a depth of flavour and helps digestion.
    Stir-fried cabbage in China is often complemented by reconstituted dried Shitake mushrooms or wood-ear fungus. To this strips of pork may be added, but with cabbage they should not be coated in cornflour or flour as this would clog up the clear sauce that seeps out of the cabbage leaves. Peeled chestnuts go very well with white cabbage varieties, especially with a touch of sugar and vinegar.
    Chinese cabbage with red chilli
    (La bai cai)

    This dish is best made with the large cabbage usually sold as ‘Chinese leaves’ and sometimes as ‘Peking cabbage’ in the West, but other types of cabbage can be used. In the winter these cabbages are piled up in almost every courtyard and balcony, so this is the Chinese equivalent of a ‘store cupboard’ dish.
    1 small Chinese cabbage (about 500 g/1 lb)
2 dried red chillies, roughly chopped
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp finely chopped spring onion
1 tsp vinegar
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp light soy sauce
½ tsp salt or to taste
    Chop the cabbage into pieces of about 2 cm (1 in) square. Using gloves, crumble the dried chillies. Heat the wok, add the oil and heat to a medium heat. Throw in the chillies and let them sizzle but not burn.
    Turn up the heat and add the cabbage, ginger and spring onion. Toss and fry, keeping the cabbage moving so that it cooks quickly and evenly (long handled chopsticks are best for this task). As the cabbage starts to soften, add the vinegar and sugar and stir-fry for another minute. Add the soy sauce and the salt, stir, turn down the heat, and simmer for another minute or so ( liquid should seep out from the cabbage at this stage, creating a moist and flavoursome dish). Remove from heat and serve immediately.
    Mushrooms are another vegetable whose potential is not always fully tapped in the West. For many people the white button variety is synonymous with the whole species and is often relegated to the role of a garnish in cooked breakfasts or used in soups and sauces. Chinese markets have whole stalls devoted to different varieties. The most common is xiang gu (fragrant mushrooms), a delicacy in the West where they are known by their Japanese name, Shitake. Freshly picked and piled high they take their place along with oyster mushrooms, straw mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, chestnut mushrooms and an amazing species known as ‘chicken leg’ because that is exactly what they look like. There are also separate stalls devoted to dried mushrooms (of which Shitake is the best known) and fungus of all shapes and

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