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!

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.

Vegetable Dishes 11: Fiddleheads

When preparing fidddleheads1 one must not be frugal, first remove all the fern’s mature branches and leaves, keeping only the straight shoots.2 Rinse them until clean and simmer until soft,3 then braise them in chicken broth. One must use only the shortest and most tender specimens since these are the most plump.


1I was tempted to translated this as bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum). However the last sentence says that the short tender shoots of the ferm should be used, which makes these fiddleheads (Canadian term for immature fernshoot tips) enough for me.

2Yuan Mei says zhigen 直根 here, which means “straight roots”. Although one might think this refers to the woody rhizomes, I believe that he is actually trying to say geng (莄or 梗) which sounds similar to gen (根) and refers instead to the straight peduncle-like leaf shoots that come out from the center of a fern. To this day, the leave shoots are the parts of the plant that are collected in many parts of Asian and the world as a vegetable, and never the roots or rhizome of the plant.

3This describes the important preboiling process to leach some of the noxious, and possibly carcinogenic substances out of the fern.