As temperatures start to climb and days get a little longer, a new crop of seasonal vegetables are sprouting around China. Perhaps you’ll be seeing some on your plate next time you’re sitting down to a meal.
As the Toona sinensis leaves and pods bloom around the city, locals pluck them and create a paste that is then used as a cooking ingredient. The uniquely floral and onion-y flavor is used to elevate seafood dishes as well as morning porridge and soups. At your local marketplace, ask for ‘香椿’ or xiāngchūn and they will most likely have it in stock.
Spring Bamboo Shoots
Bamboo shoots are edible young shoots that are just coming out of the ground. There is a famous local dish called Pickled Tuk Fresh or Yan Du Xian. It’s a nutritious soup and a popular comfort food in early spring; cooked with young bamboo shoots, chunks of pork belly, cured pork slices, firm tofu sheets and premium yellow rice wine. It takes hours to cook, but you’ll discover that time was all worthwhile once you taste it.
The saury, also known as the knife fish, is just one delicacy you can pull out of the Yangtze River. The fish’s delicate flavor has a hint of sweetness, and is best enjoyed this time of year. The scarcity of saury also makes it one of the most expensive fish in the country. Laobanzhai Restaurant is famous for it and offers Saury Wonton, Saury noodles and fried or braised saury on their menu.
Ma Lan Tou
The very fragrant wild herb Ma Lan Tou can be eaten in the very quintessential Shanghainese dish Ma Lan Xiang Gan (马兰香干) where it is served cold with tofu as an appetizer. This is the time of year when Ma Lan Tou starts popping up in herb gardens and arriving on dinner tables around the city.
Shepherd’s purse (jì cài )
Found soups, stir-fries and as a filling for wontons, the Shepherd’s Purse can be found growing wild in the areas around Shanghai and is very rich in protein.
Next time you eat out at a local restaurant, ask your server if they serve any dishes using these tasty seasonal ingredients!