Chinese Vegetables Photo Gallery and Descriptions

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    Bamboo Shoots

    Bamboo shoots for sale at the morning market
    Peter Ptschelinzew / Getty Images

    Chinese vegetables come in a variety of intriguing shapes, sizes, and textures - from fuzzy melon(the gourd, not the drink) to the tender young shoots of the bamboo plant. Here are pictures of various types of Chinese vegetables, with links to more information including storage and preparation tips, and recipes.

    As the name implies, bamboo shoots are the edible shoots of the bamboo plant, which is native to Asia. Fresh bamboo shoots are available at Asian/Chinese markets, or you can find canned bamboo shoots at most local grocery stores.

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  • 02 of 18

    Bitter Melon

    Bitter gourd
    Kazuo Ogawa/Aflo / Getty Images

    Bitter melon is known for its unusual appearance and taste. This Chinese gourd resembles a cucumber with a dark green, pockmarked skin. As the name implies, it has a rather bitter taste. However, this can be lessened by blanching or degorging the melon with salt. Bitter melon is a popular ingredient in stir-fries, where it is frequently paired with other strong flavors (such as Chinese salted black beans).

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  • 03 of 18

    Bok Choy

    Chinese cabbage or Bok Choy (Brassica rapa)
    Will Heap / Getty Images

    China's most popular vegetable, bok choy has a light, sweet flavor and crisp texture. Bok choy (also called pak choi) is used to enhance everything from soups to stir-fries: you can even deep-fry it! Nutritionally, like most leafy green vegetables, bok choy is a good source of iron. It is also high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and calcium.

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  • 04 of 18

    Chinese Broccoli

    This leafy plant has a more pronounced flavor than regular broccoli. Jeremy Hudson / Getty Images

    The Chinese version of broccoli is a leafy green plant with small white flowers. Chinese Broccoli (Gai Lan) has a slightly bittersweet flavor that pairs nicely with strongly flavored ingredients such as oyster sauce. However, regular broccoli can usually be substituted in recipes calling for Chinese broccoli.

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  • 05 of 18

    Chinese Celery

    Chinese celery, close-up
    Will Heap / Getty Images

    Regular celery can seem a little boring once you've tried Chinese celery. Originating from a wild celery native to Asia, Chinese celery has a strong flavor that adds extra taste to soups and stir-fries. (Not salads though; its strong flavor may overpower other ingredients). It also has a more attractive appearance than regular celery, with thinner stalks and a color ranging from dark green to white.

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  • 06 of 18

    Chinese Dried Mushrooms

    Dried mushrooms, Hong Kong, China
    Danita Delimont / Getty Images

    Not to be confused with cloud ears, Chinese dried mushrooms impart a pungent flavor to ​Chinese dishes. They are also called Chinese black mushrooms, which is a bit misleading as the mushrooms can range in color from grey to light brown. Dried mushrooms need to be reconstituted (soaked in water to soften) before using. The soaking liquid is often used in place of water or chicken broth in a sauce. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine believe dried mushrooms can help lower blood pressure.

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  • 07 of 18

    Chinese Eggplant

    Close of Eggplants at Kashgar Xinjiang Province China
    Chinese eggplant is easily recognizable by its long, thin shape. Feifei Cui-Paoluzzo / Getty Images

    Also called aubergine, Chinese eggplant resembles a purple zucchini, with its long thin shape and purple color that may be streaked with white. Eggplant is native to Asia, and Chinese eggplant is one of hundreds of varieties found there (another type of Southeast Asian eggplant, Thai eggplant, is small, round and green or white in color). Because it is smaller and thinner than the usual oblong shaped eggplant you find in the produce section of local supermarkets, Chinese eggplant is not normally salted and degorged before cooking. Popular Chinese dishes made with eggplant include Szechuan eggplant braised in garlic sauce.

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  • 08 of 18

    Silk Squash

    Chinese Silk Squash
    This gourd is vaguely related to the luffa brush in your shower. David Bishop Inc. / Getty Images

    A long thin squash with sharp ridges, silk squash is also called Chinese okra and angled luffa. Only immature silk squash are eaten, as older silk squash have a bitter taste. Like fuzzy melon, silk squash can be stuffed with pork and steamed. However, it is more commonly stir-fried or deep-fried. Feel free to substitute silk squash in recipes calling for cooked zucchini or okra, and to use okra as a substitute if silk squash is unavailable.

    When buying Chinese okra, look for young ones that are firm and have an unblemished skin. Despite the sharp ridges, Chinese okra does not need to be peeled before using.

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  • 09 of 18

    Chinese White Radish (Daikon Radish)

    Radish; Chinese white winter
    This large white radish adds flavor to everything from salads to stir-fries. David Q. Cavagnaro / Getty Images

    Resembling a large white carrot, Chinese white radish has a much stronger flavor than small, round red radishes. While Daikon is a popular salad ingredient in Japan, in China it is more commonly used in cooking, both in stir-frying and slow cooked dishes. It is also pickled. Turnip cake is a popular cake during ​Chinese New Year season.

    Nutritionally speaking, Chinese white radish is a good source of Vitamin C and is very low in calories.

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  • 10 of 18

    Flowering Chives

    Chinese chives in flower
    Joff Lee / Getty Images

    Flowering chives have a more delicate appearance but an even stronger flavor than regular Chinese garlic chives. Flowering chives are more frequently used in stir-fries, both because of their more attractive appearance and stronger flavor.

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  • 11 of 18

    Fuzzy Melon (Mo Qua)

    fuzzy melon
    This Chinese vegetable resembles a zucchini with fuzz. Barry Wong / Getty Images

    If Chinese eggplant looks like a large purple zucchini, fuzzy melon looks like a zucchini covered with fuzz. However, while zucchini is a type of squash, fuzzy melon is a gourd, related to winter melon. In Chinese cooking, fuzzy melon is used in a number of dishes such as soups and stir-fries. It can also be filled and steamed.
    When choosing fuzzy melon, look for ones that are small and firm. Peel off the skin or scrub well to remove the "fuzz" before using.

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  • 12 of 18

    Chinese Garlic Chives

    Garlic chives
    A flavorful alternative to regular chives. Ross Durant Photography / Getty Images

    Although both are members of the onion family, Chinese garlic chives are more attractive and more flavorful than regular chives. Regular Chinese garlic chives have a strong "garlicky" flavor, while yellow chives have a mild taste similar to onions. A third variety, flowering chives, have a more delicate appearance but an even stronger flavor than regular Chinese garlic chives.

    You'll find regular Chinese garlic chives lending flavor to soups, stews and other slow-cooked dishes. (They're also a great way to add extra flavor to scrambled eggs). Flowering chives are more frequently used in stir-fries, both because of their more attractive appearance and stronger flavor. Another popular stir-fry combination pairs yellow chives and mung bean sprouts.

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  • 13 of 18


    Wet leeks for sale in the market
    Despite being called a poor man's asparagus, leeks have a sweet mild flavor. Lulú De Panbehchi / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Leeks are a member of the onion family. Despite sometimes being called "a poor man's asparagus," the thick stalked European leeks commonly found in supermarkets have a mild sweet flavor. Chinese leeks, on the other hand, are smaller and thinner, resembling a thick scallion. Their more pungent flavor makes Chinese leeks are a staple ingredient in northern Chinese cooking. Chinese leeks generally aren't available in North America - regular leeks can be used as a substitute.

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  • 14 of 18

    Chinese Longbeans

    Chinese long beans
    These beans really do grow up to a yard long. James Baigrie/Getty Images

    You may have noticed them in the produce section - looped bunches of light or dark green beans. Believed to have originated in China, long beans come by their name honestly - they can grow up to three feet long. Other common names for long beans include yard long beans, snake bean and Chinese pea (long beans are a member of the same family as black-eyed peas, also called cowpeas).

    In cooking, long beans are the beans traditionally used to make Chinese green beans, a popular dish at Chinese buffets. They are also popular in Southern China, and in Cantonese cooks frequently pair long beans with salted black beans or fermented bean curd. Outside of China, long beans are used in Malaysian and Thai cooking.

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  • 15 of 18

    Lotus Root

    Lotus root
    Topic Images Inc. / Getty Images

    A relative of the water lily, the lotus is an aquatic plant that grows in marshes and shallow ponds. The tuberous root of the plant is found in the mud below the surface. The exterior of the root is not particularly attractive, resembling a large, buff-colored link of sausages, with each link about 8 inches long. However, channels running through the root give cut slices a delicate, lacy appearance.

    Lotus root adds a crisp texture and sweet flavor to Chinese stir-fries, soups, and salads, where they are often added raw. Deep-fried lotus root is a popular garnish. You'll frequently find candied lotus root in Chinese New Year Trays of Togetherness (also called Harmony Trays), as a symbol of abundance.

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  • 16 of 18

    Mung Bean Sprouts

    Mung Bean Sprouts
    In Chinese cuisine, delicate Mung Bean sprouts are more than a salad food. Floortje / Getty Images

    While sprouts of all types didn't become popular in North America until the 1960's health food craze, the Chinese have been sprouting mung beans for approximately 3,000 years. The Chinese name for the silver colored sprouts with the yellowish ends is nga choy or nga choi. Their crisp texture and sweet flavor are used in stir-fries and salads.

    Nutritionally, mung bean sprouts are low in calories, fat, and carbohydrates, and high in Vitamin C, and a good source of protein. Stir-frying the sprouts helps reduce the chance of food-borne illness. However, to preserve their crunchy texture, mung bean sprouts shouldn't be stir-fried for more than 30 seconds.

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  • 17 of 18

    Chinese Cabbage

    Chinese cabbage
    FoodPhotography Eising / Getty Images

    While there are hundreds of varieties of cabbage used in Chinese/Asian cooking (bok choy is a type of cabbage) the cabbage commonly known as Chinese cabbage is the large cabbage with the pale green leaves that are often placed next to the bok choy in the supermarket. You may also find it called by its Chinese name, sui choy.

    Napa cabbage has a mild, sweet flavor that pairs nicely with more strong flavored foods. You'll find Napa Cabbage adding texture and flavor to stir-fried noodles, dumplings, soups and hot pot broth. It can be steamed, stir-fried, sauteed - the only thing to watch out for is not to overcook it. An eastern Chinese specialty, creamed cabbage, consists of leaves of shredded cabbage that are braised in a rich mixture of milk, chicken stock, rice wine, and seasonings. But Chinese cabbage doesn't need such extensive preparation to coax out its natural flavor - try stir-frying with a bit of ginger, salt, pepper and chicken broth for a simple side dish.​

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  • 18 of 18

    Snow Pea Shoots

    Snow pea shoots
    James A. Guilliam / Getty Images

    Snow pea shoots are the delicate tips of the vines and the top set of leaves of the snow pea plant. Considered to be a delicacy in Chinese cooking, snow pea shoots can be served raw in salads, quickly cooked in stir-fries, or blanched and used in soups.