Minnesota would like to fool us, but it is officially springtime! After our epic Game-of-Thrones-worthy winter, I’d like to share with you a basic cooking technique I discovered reading Fuschia Dunlop’s book Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking. I love this particular technique, as it’s a fast and delicious way to prepare a myriad of delicious vegetable dishes. The basic recipe You Lin Cai Xin calls for choy sum, Chinese Flowering Cabbage, as its main ingredient. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that choy sum is being grown right here in Minnesota and sold in our co-ops when it’s available throughout the season.
The recipe calls for the following:
1 bunch of choy sum, washed and trimmed (the exact recipe says 300 grams)
2 spring onions, cut into fine slivers
10g piece of ginger, peeled and cut into fine slivers (cut these slivers very fine, unless you really like the strong taste of ginger)
A small strip of red chilli or red pepper for colour, cut into fine slivers (optional)
4 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp light soy sauce diluted with 2 tbsp hot water from the kettle
To prepare the dish:
Bring a panful of water to the boil. Add a teaspoon of salt and one tablespoon of the oil to the water, tip in the choy sum and blanch for a minute or so until it has just lost its rawness (the stems should still be a little crisp). Drain and shake dry in a colander. Pile the choy sum neatly on a serving dish and pile the spring onion, ginger and chilli or pepper slivers (if using) on top. Heat the remaining oil over a high flame. When the oil is hot, ladle it carefully over the spring onions, ginger and chilli. It should sizzle dramatically. To make sure the oil is hot enough, try ladling a few drops on first, to check for the sizzle. As soon as you get a vigorous sizzle, pour over the rest of the oil. Pour over the diluted soy sauce mixture, and serve.
Now let’s talk about why this particular dish is so appropriate for this time of year. There are a few basic correspondences to remember when crafting any seasonal recipe using Chinese Food Therapy. For spring, you want to remember three things:
1. Green is good! In Chinese (and even Western) medicine, green foods cleanse the liver and gallbladder, which are most closely linked to the spring season. This recipe is full of good healthy greens!
2. Spring is a time of wind. Wind in Chinese Medicine is used to describe a number of ailments; from allergies to the common cold. Both the spring onions and ginger in this recipe are good for preventing wind related diseases!
3. Spring is a time of rising Yang energy. Just as plants are rising from the ground, so are energies stirring upward in your body after the long winter. Spring onions, especially, are good for moving Yang energy upward.
If you can’t find choy sum, substitute any hardy green that can stand up to a little heat, for your recipe. I’ve had great luck with broccoli, and I think kale would also be a solid choice. Enjoy the warm weather (when it gets here), and this simple side dish with your spring meals!