Vegetables or 蔬菜 (shūcài)

The mainland Chinese are very health conscious people because they eat a lot of green vegetables.

Furthermore, it’s relatively cheap because you can buy a whole sack of green, leafy vegetables and pay only 20 yuan.

Let me share with you a snapshot of what I’d usually see at the wet market.

The noob that I am to Chinese food and Chinese cooking, I can honestly tell you that I only buy 5-7 types of vegetables from the photo below.

Let’s see, I’ve tried:

1. Watercress or 西洋菜[xīyángcài]

Found in the blue bag on the bottom left, I’d usually boil it with pork bones and red dates. We’ve always enjoyed this soup but recently, a batch I bought was surprisingly bitter!

The maid speculated that’s because it’s still early winter and thus this winter vegetable has not had its chance to “sweeten” up yet. Strange but I’ll try another batch next week to see how our luck goes.

2. Baby Bok Choy or 小白菜 (xiǎobáicài)

Moving in a clockwise order, you’ll see our regular green veggie, which we have at least once a week. The kids love it too so it’s a staple food for us. The maid will just stir fry it with shallots.

3. Baby Bok Choy or 小白菜 (xiǎobáicài) also?

Are these the white stemmed variety? I don’t remember if I’ve tried it. Maybe I should just for the sake of variety. Just hate to get something which ends up in the bin, you know?

4. Jie-cai (芥菜, Mustard Leaf)

These mustard leaves are actually quite tough and bitter, which means they are not on our shopping list 😀

5. 菜心 (cai xin)

“Chye sim” (Hokkien) or “choy sum” (Cantonese), which I only buy if I plan to stir fry Hokkien mee or maybe just as an add-on to Maggi mee. The kids don’t really fancy it although I think it’s got quite a bland taste. Hmm…think I should buy some this week to let them have a go again.

6. Darkish green vegetables

A strange-looking vegetables that looks like it’s half-rotting. Naturally, I’ve never bought them to try LOL

7. Dang or? Called chrysanthemum leaves

These vegetables have rather tough stems that my kids seem to choke on. Somehow, they find them hard to swallow that I’ve stopped buying them too.

8. 大白菜 (dàbáicài) (Top right corner)

It’s not Napa cabbage or the famous 北京白菜 (Beijing bai cai) but from a similar family? These are especially “sweet” and juicy during the winter. However, it’s very, very, very cooling and I learned my lesson one month when I cooked this vegetable once too often – severe menstrual cramps and heavy bleeding O_O

After that, I will only indulge in Napa cabbage in Korean kim chi, made with lots of ginger 🙂
The Korean Kimchi Cookbook: 78 Fiery Recipes for Korea’s Legendary Pickled and Fermented Vegetables

9. Bo-cai (菠菜, Spinach)

I find it interesting that this bo-cai is called spinach because I’d call the common green / purple bayam spinach. It’s got a so-so taste so it makes its appearance once a fortnight on our dinner table.

Since this Guangzhou site states that bo-cai (oxalate) may aggravate a kidney stone problem, I’m staying away from it too.

That’s about all I know about the green vegetables on sale at the wet market in China.

I hope that you will try cooking some Chinese stir-fry vegetables. Let me know if you have tried any 🙂

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  • Paik Ling Link

    Thanks for the education. Like you, I only buy and cook a handful of vegetables ie those that I am familiar with. I personally love to consume leafy green veg as opposed to stem vegetables such as brocolli and cauliflower.

  • Kit Link

    A Mom’s Diary – Thanks for the tip. I’ve never really liked “choy keok” as it looks messy and it’s a bit sour, right? Ha, I’m such a fussy eater…

    Paik Ling – Same here! I like leafy green veggies too and try to include one in the menu every day, if possible.

  • a-moms-diary Link

    Jie-cai (芥菜, Mustard Leaf) is mostly used to cook what we Cantonese call “choy keok” – you know, the one pot dish where you dump all leftover meat/vegetable/mushroom from CNY feast/wedding dinner and boil them with dry chillies and tamarind skin to make a spicy and sourish dish. It’s yummy like that but I don’t think I’ve ever eaten it as a stir fry dish.

    Watercress is only available in winter meh? I think we get it all year round in Malaysia wor, unless the Chinese one is of a different variety?