Vegetable Dishes 17: Garlic Chives

Garlic chives are a strong flavoured hun food.1 Reserve the white portions of garlic chives and stir-fry with dried shrimp for a great dish. They are also good stir-fried with fresh shrimp, clams, or pork.2


1In the Suiyuan Shidan, the term hun (葷) is used as an umbrella term in a few places not only for Chinese Buddhist vegetarian ideas of what are or are not forbidden foods, but also to note various assertive stenches or flavours. The former category consists of all animal based food as well as all plants form the garlic family, which are believed to disrupt one’s Buddhist practice. The latter, although less common in modern usage, nevertheless feels appropriate considering how delightfully sinful these strong flavours and smell are.

2Disappointingly little is said here about this very tasty and easy-to-grow vegetable, but perhaps it’s omitted because it’s considered common knowledge?


Vegetable Dishes 16: Roast Vegetarian Goose

Boil some mountain yam until soft, cut them into inch long pieces, and wrap in tofu skin. Pan-fry in oil, then add autumn sauce, wine, sugar, and soy-pickled ginger, and cook until they are brownish red in color.


1A recipe that is a rather poor substitute for real goose and requires quite the imaginative effort on the eater’s part. Still, when eaten without expectations it is remarkably delicious.

Apologies for the slow drip of posts… The planning and work for the on-coming book event is taking much more time than expected. More announcements to come!

Famous People like my Book!

In anticipation of the launch of my book Recipes from the Garden of Contentment: Yuan Mei’s Manual of Gastronomy later this autumn, we have started asking for comments from range of authors and I am thrilled to have such fantastic endorsements of them. Here’s a selection so far:

“Food historians rejoice: at last a complete translation of the 18th century classic of Chinese gastronomy. The recipes range from exotic to homey and comforting and most can be cooked in an ordinary kitchen. Yuan Mei also offers sage advice on choosing ingredients, how to combine flavors and introduces techniques that will be unfamiliar in the West; in many respects he is the Brillat-Savarin of Chinese cuisine and is equally opinionated and funny.”
Ken Albala, author of Three World Cuisines and Noodle Soup: Recipes, Techniques, Obsession

“Finally: a lively, scholarly and usefully-annotated English translation of Yuan Mei’s seminal cookbook and culinary treatise that captures the spirit of the original work. Sean Chen and his team have performed a great service for the world of gastronomy by making this fascinating text accessible to English-speaking readers.”
Fuchsia Dunlop, author of Land of Fish and Rice and other cookery books

“The publication of the bilingual edition of Recipes from the Garden of Contentment: Yuan Mei’s Manual of Gastronomy is indeed a landmark event and not only in culinary scholarship. Yuan’s wit and love of food is an added bonus and greatly enhances our understanding of one of the world’s greatest cuisines.”
Ken Hom, OBE, author of My Stir-fried Life and other cookery books

“Chinese cuisine is often misunderstood, mistaking one of the most delicate, beautiful, and tasty cuisines for Americanized semi-fast food. This books explains the complexities and delicacies of Chinese food. I enjoyed reading it very much, and recommend it for anyone who loves food.”
Kai-Fu Lee, AI expert, author of AI Superpowers, former president of Google China

“The Suiyuan Shidan is a classic and two centuries later it still sparkles with Yuan’s irascible charm, his epic passion for food, and his near-religious devotion to the pleasures of the senses.”
Nicole Mones, author of The Last Chinese Chef and other novels

“The Suiyuan Shidan is one of China’s greatest classical cookbooks. It is also unique in that it beguiles its readers with wit, intelligence, and brevity, much like Fernand Point’s Ma Gastronomie. Translating something as difficult as this is therefore an event worth celebrating, and kudos go out to Sean Chen for his meticulously scholarly approach. Open the cover and prepare to be enchanted.”
Carolyn Phillips, author of All Under Heaven and The Dim Sum Field Guide

Needless to say, I was completely unprepared, absolutely bowled over, by these kinds words from Ken Albala, Fuchsia Dunlop, Ken Kom, Kai-Fu Lee, Nicole Mones, and Carolyn Phillips.

Thank you!

Vegetable Dishes 15: Loosestrife Greens

The preparation is the same as chrysanthemum greens. They are produced in Xin’an county1 upstream of Changjiang.


1Loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) is known in Chinese as “pearl greens”. Not sure why this is so.
2 Xin-an county is located in Luoyang City in Henan Province

Vegetable Dishes 14: Stone Hair

The preparation is the same as pearl algae. During summer, it is especially good mixed with sesame oil, vinegar, and autumn sauce.


1This is an algae Ulva compressa or Ulva intestinalis, found growing on the rocks and boulders on the sea side. I originally thought of this was another name for facai (髮菜, Nostoc flagelliforme) but in looking at a variety of ancient and old medical texts, we can see the ingredient is most likely that of genus Ulva.

Vegetable Dishes 12: Pearl Algae

Carefully pick through the pearl algae1 to clean them through. Boil them until they are somewhat soft then braise them in chicken and ham broth. When serving the dish, it is best when only the pearls are visible and not the chicken or the ham used in its preparation. The household of Tao Fangbo excels at preparing this dish.


1This is a type of cyanobacteria that forms jelly-like round colonies in the bottom of shallow freshwater ponds. The species are usually Nostoc commen v spheroides or Nostoc pruniforme. Still, their full scientific name or their terrible common names (mare’s egg, star jelly) don’t adequately describe how amazing these things look, so I’ve invented a better name: “Pearl Algae”.
Yes, I know they’re are not technically algae, but they look somewhat like them, and they are pearl-like. The Chinese name gexianme (葛仙米), translated badly as “pattern immortal’s rice”. To me,  the name pointed out its otherworldly appearance, but in actuality refers to the an ancient Chinese mystic, Ge Hong (葛洪, see Comments). IMHO these spherical algae-like objects are remarkably beautiful.
It’s relative, Nostoc flagelliforme is also commonly eaten and know as facai (髮菜), which literally translates as “hair vegetable” due to it’s stringy appearance. As with its hairy relative, pearl algae are usually sold dried in Chinese groceries.