Not enough greens in your diet? Bored of boring boiled broccoli? Try these 6 simple Chinese techniques that provide both nutrients and flavor.
Suanrong / qingchao (garlic sauce)
The most classic vegetable preparation in China — greens stir fried with garlic and seasoned lightly with salt and msg (or bouillon). Feel free to throw in a little dried red pepper. This technique is common with almost all leafy greens, but baby bok choy, yam leaf, A-cai, and pea tips are some of the most popular. Crisp, fresh, and warm.
Baizhuo (water scorched)
This variety builds off the American “steamed” or “boiled” veggies. Let your greens blanch for a quick minute, until just cooked through. Then load them on your plate, pile on garlic, ginger, fresh red pepper, salt, soy sauce, and msg, and finish with a drizzle of smoking hot oil to awaken the spices. Common especially with Chinese broccoli (jielan) and okra.
Not much different from in the USA, except that the technique is mostly used with thin leafy greens (i.e. yam leaves, spinach, lettuce, A-cai, etc.), and that the water is either seasoned as a broth or with bouillon.
Liangban (cold mixed)
Mixing tang (blanched) or raw veggies with a light dressing, most often soy sauce, vinegar, salt, and msg. Very common with spinach (mixed with peanuts and tahini or peanut butter) and cucumber (smashed, chopped, and served with garlic, ginger, chili, soy sauce, and black vinegar).
Haoyou (oyster sauce)
This is a sweeter and saltier style, in which oyster sauce is stir fried along with garlic and a thin leafy green (like romaine lettuce). If you don’t want to use oyster sauce, you can also substitute vegetarian oyster sauce.
Furu (fermented tofu)
Perhaps no cuisine puts as much emphasis on fermentation as Chinese food. From the creators of soy sauce to the experts on bean pastes, vinegars, pickled greens, zhacai, yacai, baijiu… the list goes on and on. Furu is one of these foods. Not much different from miso, furu is the product of fermenting cubed tofu until mold begins to develop, after which it’s brined for weeks or months in salty, savory spices. The result is a complex tofu that has layers of flavor and aromas, with distinctive regional and subregional variation. One common vegetable dish is to mash a little block of white furu and stir fry it with leafy greens, garlic, ginger, and red pepper. This is one of the easiest Chinese vegetable preparations yet boasts one of the most complex variety of flavors.
Leafy greens taste good! And they are so good for you, too. Invest now, during quarantine, to find one or two preparations you love. You’ll be happy and healthy because of it.