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China and Food 2: Celtuce!

Popularity 11Viewed 3366 times 2014-12-17 01:40 |System category:Life| China, food, vegetables

Today I'd like to introduce you the vegetable that nature has roasted for us: Celtuce! (That's what the internet tells me it's called). In Chinese it's 莴笋 (wo1 sun3), and it's quite cheap recently. It's not that easy to prepare though. It has a very thick skin you need to peel, but you can't do it with a regular potato peeler. I peeled it with a knife. 


There is only one in the photo, I cut it in half. It's quite long, and enough for one person if you cook other vegetables with it. I didn't take a photo of it before peeling... But baidu helps me show you how it looks with the skin.
(Image from http://nbssy.cn/)

When I meet a vegetable for the first time, I usually steam it. Celtuce was delicious when steamed. As I wrote before, it has a very distinctive, deep taste; like... as if it's been roasted. So to me, it's name is "roasted vegetable".

Last week I saw it at the school canteen, and ordered it immediately (there are not many dishes without meat, so I notice and try everything). I also wanted to see how it is cooked in a commercial way. It was served with Asian yam (山药) and was stir fried, like most Chinese food. They didn't cook it much and left it a little crispy, probably to match the natural apple-like crispiness of the yam. It was a little too oily, again like most Chinese food, but wasn't that bad.


The other dish I ordered is white gourd, 冬瓜. You must've seen it in markets all year round. It's HUGE, I mean really huge, and usually very cheap. In supermarkets they are cut and packed as thick slices, but in vegetable markets you can see them lying on the floor like dormant whales. Probably the canteen buys just one, and can cook 100 dishes with one gourd. OK I'm exaggerating, but you can feed several families with one white gourd for sure. It's dark green outside and white inside, has somewhat sweet taste. My dictionary tells me it's also called "Chinese watermelon", not sure if it's classified as a fruit. When cooked, it becomes soft and almost transparent like you see in the above pic. It tastes somewhat like other types of gourd I'm more familiar with, but is somewhat sweet also. I'm not going to write a separate post about it, I'm not a huge fan. I remember when I first cooked it, I pureed it with some sweet potato, it just disappeared and made a VERY sweet puree. In Malaysia I remember I bought a canned soft drink with white gourd flavour. Was very interesting. 

But here comes a bonus, something I tried a few months ago actually.

Dried egg?! I was very skeptical, and feared it might be sweet (like most things are here). It does have white sugar listed in the ingredients indeed, but not that much. It just tasted like some boiled egg with soy sauce. It might be convenient if you don't want to/can't buy boiled eggs, or want to have some protein on the go. After eating black olives with somewhat sweet taste and also Korean kimchi and dried seaweed with lots of sugar, I'm suspicious of anything that has sugar added in it... But dried egg is not disappointing. 

Oh and, today I ate duck egg for the first time. I wasnt even sure if it was called 鸭蛋, so I just asked the lady I usually buy eggs from if she had any. She just pointed me the somewhat bigger, somewhat yellowish eggs. I bought only one. It felt very dense in my hand, I almost feared there might be a developed fetus inside it. But it just looks and tastes like chicken egg. The yolk was bigger, and thicker, hence the denser feel of the raw egg. For some reason I felt bad about eating a duck's egg... I don't know why. I guess I have internalized eating chicken eggs and don't find it unethical at all, but duck egg is something new. I don't think I will eat it a second time though. I hope Donald Duck won't visit me in my dream tonight. 

OK, so much about eggs. One thing I want to ask, do you eat the leaves of celtuce? I do, and I haven't died yet. None of the photos on baidu show the leaves served on a plate, the one I ordered at the canteed didn't have leaves either. The leaves somewhat resemble normal lettuce leaves, but are somewhat purple especially in the middle, and have a different, thicker texture than those of a regular lettuce. I just steam them with the stem and eat when I cook it. Should I stop? Will it kill me?


(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report samthy 2016-10-9 18:35
Ah,my hometown put celtuce's leaves as a common dish of vegetable. so why do you think that will kill you?  

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Maierwei

Whenever I get lost I look super-confident. Whenever I feel so scary, boring and ordinary people tell me I\'m so nice, interesting and friendly.

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