Asian vegetables are not only fundamental to Lunar New Year but also to Asian cuisine as a whole. People love to eat green, leafy vegetables at each meal because they’re not only incredibly healthy but also versatile in a vast number of recipes. When it comes to popular green Asian vegetables, we at Melissa’s have the best of the best from top quality growers. Let’s take a look at some of the Asian vegetables we’re offering that would be perfect for Chinese New Year and other Chinese-inspired dishes. We also have a wide variety of essentials for Chinese New Year including vegetables, tropical fruits, noodles and other great items to make tasty dishes for the holiday.
Visual Guide to Asian Essentials
1. Petite Shanghai / Bok Choy (recipe)
Don’t be confused by how similar Petite Shanghai looks as baby bok choy. Petite Shanghai is part of the bok choy family but are actually smaller than baby bok choy. However, what they do have in common is their delicious hint of sweetness once cooked. Their delicateness allows for them to blanch beautifully in soups and make a nice crunchy addition to stir-fry.
2. Petite Baby Choy Sum (recipe)
How adorable does Petite Baby Choy Sum look? With a distinctly sweet but delicate mustard flavor, petite baby choy sum is popularly used in stir-fries and can withstand bold flavors such as chiles, garlic, spices and even citrus. And because they’re so small, they can be eaten whole. A great recipe for getting started with this awesome vegetable is our Petite Choy Sum Stir-Fry.
3. Gai Lan aka Chinese Broccoli (recipe)
Gai lan, also known as Chinese Broccoli, is a favorite in Chinese cuisine. Gai lan has a similar flavor to regular broccoli, only slightly more bitter. It pairs wonderfully with oyster sauce and garlic because the flavors complement and offset the bitterness. For an easy yet flavorful side dish, check out our Gai Lan and Long Bean Stir Fry with Enoki Mushrooms.
4. Napa Cabbage (recipe)
Originating from Beijing, China, Napa cabbage is commonly used in Asian cuisine. As a symbol of prosperity in China, what’s not to love about this exquisite vegetable during Chinese New Year? Napa cabbage is used extensively in stir-fry and hot pot and becomes wonderfully tender once cooked. And don’t forget about kimchi! Napa cabbage is the star of the show in the most popular kimchi, baechu kimchi.
5. Bok Choy Leaves (recipe)
A deep green leafy vegetable that resembles Romaine lettuce on top and a large celery on the bottom, bok choy is a crucifer more closely related to cabbage. The entire vegetable can be used, and is often added raw to salads for a satisfying crunch. In soups, the leaves and stalks should be chopped and added separately, since the stalks take longer to cook.
Did you know; The name “bok choy” originated from the Chinese word for “soup spoon” because of the shape of its leaves.
6. Baby Bok Choy (recipe)
Tender and leafy, baby bok choy is an incredibly versatile vegetable. Whether stir-fried, braised, sautéed or steamed, this vegetable becomes more mild to reveal a just hint of sweetness. We love baby bok choy in a number of recipes but we like it simple the best. Sautéed with garlic, soy sauce and lemon juice, our Quick Lemony Baby Bok Choy Sauté is the perfect Chinese New Year’s side dish.
7. Chinese Eggplant (recipe)
Chinese Eggplant can be distinguished from other popular oriental eggplant varieties by its color and size. Chinese Eggplant is usually lavender or white and is even longer than the darker purple Japanese Eggplant. Although Chinese Eggplant is botanically a fruit, it’s more commonly used as a vegetable and resembles a small zucchini. Sweeter and more tender than regular eggplant, Melissa’s Chinese Eggplant has fewer, smaller seeds.
8. Bitter Melon
Grown as a fruit but used as a vegetable, the Bitter Melon is actually a member of the squash family. Resembling a long, bumpy cucumber, Bitter Melon can be found in Asian and East Indian cooking
This bitter or quinine flavor (a bitter alkaloid) is often combined with garlic or chile. Once thought to contain medicinal qualities, in some parts of China, Bitter Melon is still used to purify the blood and cool the digestive system
9. Bok Choy
One of the most famous vegetables found in Asian cuisine, bok choy is used extensively in a number of recipes. With a flavor similar to Swiss Chard or spinach, it’s no wonder this delightful vegetable is so beloved. Though the leaves are a bit spicy raw, once cooked, they release a mild sweetness. Try it with our Bok Choy and Shiitake Stir-fry Yakisoba.
10. Chinese Long Bean (recipe)
Chinese Long Bean is part of the same plant family as the black-eyed pea. This edible pod actually resembles the green bean, although not as crisp.
In China, the Chinese Long Bean is sometimes left to grow 3 feet in length until peas have matured in the pod. Usually harvested at a foot long, this legume is quite thin with a slight black-eyed pea flavor.
And, if you don’t have a Wok to cook these Asian items… no problem, Martin Yan shows you how to improvise!