January 2020 marked the start of a new Chinese Lunar New Year. This is the year of the rat. One Chinese folk tale tells of the rat’s adaptability to its surroundings. To me, a step beyond adaptability is trying new food outside of your comfort zone.
Every time I visit the local Asian grocery market, I challenge myself to buy a new vegetable and incorporate it in my cooking. Don’t be afraid of whether how you cook something is “authentic”. Give yourself credit for trying!
Here are a few step-out dishes, especially for those not familiar with certain Chinese vegetables.
(1) dry noodles with shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, and numbing Sichuan peppercorn. Finely chop your choice of greens and mushroom (you get a slightly different flavor with each type of green or mushroom you choose).
Cook these two by either sautéing with a tablespoon of sesame oil or (for a healthier oil-free alternative) add a cup of water and stir until the veggies are cooked. Before the veggies are fully cooked, add chillis of your choice for some heat (my favorite are long Thai green chilis), but you can also try dry red pepper or even jalapeños. Simultaneously, add a handful of Sichuan peppercorns. These are sold at Asian markets and look similar to black peppercorn but add a tongue-numbing sensation to dishes and heightens the flavor (in a good way). If it’s your first time trying these peppercorns, just add a few.
Add the mixture to noodles. Choosing noodles is another opportunity to be creative! Varieties range in thickness and most markets sell fresh and dry noodles. You can even try spaghetti noodles if you have some leftover at home! Enjoy!
(2) Lotus root has become one of my favorite vegetables. As the name suggests it’s the root of the lotus flower. Isn’t it great to use multiple parts of the same plant?! It’s typically found year-round at Asian markets. Some markets sell it peeled and cut. It’s fairly easy to peel so I prefer buying it whole like the picture shown.
Once you peel, slice width wise. You can vary the thickness based on the amount of crunch you want. I’d recommend 1/4 inch thick circles. If you want to stuff the holes (e.g., with tofu pieces) slice the circles slightly thicker. These can be cooked by sautéing with a bit of sesame oil or steaming with water. Lotus root cooks quickly-you want to keep the fresh, crunchy texture.
(3) Wood eat mushrooms. As the name suggests, these types of mushrooms are grown on trees. They are hard to find fresh (most stores sell them dried). However I prefer the fresh ones by far-they are more flavorful and don’t have preservatives. These cook fairly quickly too, again by either sautéing or cooking with some water. They don’t have as strong a flavor as some other mushrooms (in my opinion) but have a very unique “squeaky” texture that I haven’t found in any other vegetable.
Try these recipes and tag #reshieramblesreceipes on Instagram and Facebook!