Ying's ideas of easy Chinese home-cooking

Stir-fried Zizania Latifolia Stems

魚醬炒茭白

It was Jingzhe/惊蛰 yesterday, also known as The Waking of Insects in Egnlish. Jingzhe is the third of the 24 solar terms in East Asian calendar. It’s usually the period of the very beginning of March. As the meaning of its Chinese name, Jingzhe, it means hibernating insects are waken by the spring thunder and rain, or the warmer weather. Ancient Chinese farmers considered Jingzhe as the most important solar term in spring, they started farming of the new year in this period.

I found this fresh seasonal vegetable in farmer’s market, the stem of Zizania latifolia. This plant is usually harvested in rainy season in South China. When in Spring, sprouts and stems are particularly tender and sweet, such as different peas, pea sprout, bean sprout, garlic sprout, bamboo shoot. Zizania latifolia stem is similar to bamboo shoot. It’s tender and crispy, mildly sweet. According to Wikipedia, it was an Asian ancient wild rice though it’s no longer grown for rice but its stem. It’s one of the delicate vegetables only available in rainy season in Spring and Summer, in southern regions of China. However, I assume it wouldn’t be allowed to be planted in many other countries since it’s considered invasive species. Anyway, I used to purchase them in big Asian supermarket in big cities of Scotland, usually Glasgow. They are imported to satisfy oversea Chinese for a taste of seasonal homeland vegetable. Try shopping in your local Asian grocery stores and you would have surprising findings of unique Asian vegetables. Don’t hesitate to ask the shop keeper or assistant for cooking advice.

In this recipe, I simply stir-fry zizania latifolia stems with firm tofu, and season with fish paste, a local produce. Zizania latifolia stem is such a lovely vegetable that you don’t even need much seasoning or complicated cooking technique. Here are some of the recipe suggestions.

1. Slice thinly, stir-fry with garlic, season with a little salt and sugar; (vegetarian)
2. Slice thinly, poach in water, drain, mix with olive oil and salt; (vegetarian)
3. Slice thinly, poach in water, drain, mix with Japanese sesame dressing and toasted sesame seeds; (vegetarian)
4. Cut into chunks, stir-fry with garlic and ginger, season with (vegan) Cantonese oyster sauce or garlic chili sauce; (vegetarian)
5. Cut into chunks, deep-fry, season with salt and pepper; (vegetarian)
6. Cut into chunks, braise with lots of sugar, light and dark soy sauce, cooking wine, a Shanghainess way; (vegetarian)
7. Slice, stir-fry with pork slice or chicken slice;
8. Cut into chunks, braise with pork belly or chicken.

Ingredients –

  • Zizania Latifolia Stems, 500-600g
  • Extra firm tofu, 300g
  • Preserved fish paste, 1tbsp
  • Ginger slice, 10g
  • Garlic slice, 10g
  • Thai red chili, 2
  • Sugar, 1tsp
  • Salt, 1/2tsp
  • Chinese cooking wine, 2tbsp

How to do –
1. The stems need to be peeled before cooking. Its thick woody exterior needs to be peeled. And I also cut off about 1cm of the root end, it’s tough to chew; then cut into chunks;

2. Heat some oil in hot wok, in medium-high heat, pan-fry firm tofu slices, about 1/2cm thick, till golden both sides, removed from the wok and set aside;

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3. A little more oil on wok, stir-fry garlic and ginger till fragrant;

4. Put in stem chunks, stir-fry till light golden, then pour in half cup of water, lid on, cook for 5 minutes till they are fully cooked; Tofu in, flip and mix well;

5. Now you could season with fish paste, salt and sugar, cooking wine, and red chili. Flip the wok and stir well for 2 or 3 minutes. Soy sauce, vegan Cantonese oyster sauce, garlic chili sauce, or simple salt and pepper, all these seasoning would do if you are vegetarian.

Stir-fried Zizania Latifolia Stems

魚醬炒茭白

Preparation time: 20mins
Serving: 3-4

Ingredients

Zizania Latifolia Stems 500-600g

Extra firm tofu 300g

Preserved fish paste 1tbsp

Ginger slice 10g

Garlic slice 10g

Thai red chili 2

Sugar 1tsp

Salt 1/2tsp

Chinese cooking wine 2tbsp

Instructions

1.1.tThe stems need to be peeled before cooking. Its thick woody exterior needs to be peeled. And I also cut off about 1cm of the root end, it’s tough to chew; then cut into chunks;

2.2.tHeat some oil in hot wok, in medium-high heat, pan-fry firm tofu slices, about 1/2cm thick, till golden both sides, removed from the wok and set aside;

3.3.tA little more oil on wok, stir-fry garlic and ginger till fragrant;

4.4.tPut in stem chunks, stir-fry till light golden, then pour in half cup of water, lid on, cook for 5 minutes till they are fully cooked; Tofu in, flip and mix well;

5.5.tNow you could season with fish paste, salt and sugar, cooking wine, and red chili. Flip the wok and stir well for 2 or 3 minutes. Soy sauce, vegan Cantonese oyster sauce, garlic chili sauce, or simple salt and pepper, all these seasoning would do if you are vegetarian.

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