Did you catch my description of the savory and spicy XO sauce a while back? Did you read the post from earlier in the spring about how edamame, an easy-to-grow and delicious snack actually improves your garden soil? I said it was a win-win situation. Well, guess what happens if you add XO sauce to edamame you’ve grown yourself? Win-win-win. Instructions for how to grow edamame and recipe for XO sauce in The Chinese Kitchen Garden!
This photo, from the back of The Chinese Kitchen Garden book (photo credit: Sarah Culver), is of Lyric and me picking sweet potato leaves from the garden around late summer/early fall. Sweet potato leaves are literally just the leaves of sweet potato plants, meaning the plant does double duty. As long as you don't over the pick leaves (and check out the photo - it would be hard to do this!), you'll still be able to harvest delicious tubers at the end of fall after enjoying greens all summer!
My family grows an heirloom variety of sweet potatoes (a white-colored, ok/good tasting, probably Korean type) that produces smooth-textured, mild, delicious leaves. As you can see from the photo, when all your other greens have bolted in the heat or been decimated by pests, sweet potato leaves are abundant, lush, perfect, and so tasty!
Many people compare sweet potato leaves to spinach and can use them raw as such, but in Chinese kitchens, we generally cook our greens. Pick up a copy of The Chinese Kitchen Garden to learn how to use sweet potato leaves in your own kitchen!
If your answer is rice, you'd be mostly right.
While we frequently think of rice as the staple grain in Chinese cuisine, in Northern China, other grains such as wheat, millet, and maize are just as common.
As my father told me about mid-1950's life in rural Shandong, China, I was shocked and fascinated to hear that where he was from, "Only rich people ate rice. Poor people ate corn, and very poor people ate...sweet potatoes". Every house owned a mill where the family would grind their corn into porridges, breads and polenta-like foods.
I talked with an older Chinese American man at a talk recently. He told me that a lot of people of his generation would avoid certain foods (such as corn) because they served as a reminder of lean times and monotonous foods eaten solely for survival. I told him my father probably felt the same way for a very long time. Lately though, he has been interested in experimenting. He and my mom remembered a food they ate as children and have been trying to recreate - it was some sort of cornbread, smoother than our Southern American cornbreads, with a finer grind and perhaps a more glutinous feel. Definitely less sweet. I suppose enough time as gone by that the curiosity of the foodies inside of them think it would be a fun challenge to recreate this bread.
Northern Chinese cuisine is also known for wheat flour based foods - dumplings, steamed buns, breads and noodles.
While we may think that any Chinese dish would naturally be served alongside a small bowl of rice, it doesn't even make an appearance in many of the cuisines of China! (photo credit: Sarah Culver)
I'm Wendy Kiang-Spray, gardener, home cook, and author of The Chinese Kitchen Garden. Learn more about the book here. Enjoy the blog and be sure to like The Chinese Kitchen Garden Facebook page for notifications when there are new posts.