Found Recipes
4:03 pm
Thu April 4, 2013

A Simple Chinese Twist On Young Soybeans

Originally published on Thu April 4, 2013 6:20 pm

What comes to mind when you think of Chinese food? Is it takeout, thick sauces or deep-fried meat? Cookbook author Fuchsia Dunlop wants to change that.

"Really, the traditional diet is all about vegetables," she says. "In the past, most people couldn't afford to eat much meat, so they had to concentrate on making their everyday vegetarian produce taste sensational."

Dunlop is from Oxford, England. She trained as a chef at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine and has been traveling around China for the last two decades, collecting recipes and writing about food. Her latest book is Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking.

One of Dunlop's favorite Chinese vegetable dishes is xue cai mao dou or stir-fried snow vegetable with green soybeans. She shared a recipe for the dish for All Things Considered's Found Recipe series.

"Xue cai -- that means literally snow vegetable. It's a kind of pickled mustard green. Mao dou means hairy beans — or green soybeans," she says.

Green soybeans are most commonly known by their Japanese name, edamame. They can be dried and made into tofu, but when they're harvested early, you can eat them as a vegetable. Dunlop loves the flavor of the young beans. "They're a bit firmer than peas, and I think they're rather more delicious," she says.

Dunlop has had many versions of the stir-fried soybean dish in different parts of China. But her favorite was cooked by a grandmother who lived in the hills of southern Zhejian province, near Shanghai. She modeled her dish off that meal.

"I sometimes cook it just with the snow vegetable and the green soybeans. And sometimes I add a bit of chili and Sichuan pepper to give it a Sichuanese touch, a little bit of spicy pizzazz," she says. "Just have it with a bit of steamed rice — it's very satisfying."

The dish's appeal lies in its simplicity for Dunlop. She hopes it will change minds about what it means to cook Chinese food.

"I think people are often very intimidated by Chinese food, but of course lots of people in China are busy, they're just trying to make something satisfying for their family at the end of the day," she says. "This dish is just an example of how people rustle up a quick stir-fry for supper."


Recipe: Stir-Fried Green Soybeans With Snow Vegetable (Xue Cai Mao Dou)

You can add more or less snow vegetable as you please and you might like to pep it up with a little chili and Sichuan pepper, to give it a Sichuanese twist. Either version is great served either hot or cold. The same method can be used to cook peas or fava beans.

9 ounces fresh or defrosted frozen green soy beans (shelled weight)

2 tablespoons cooking oil

5 dried chilies (optional)

1/2 teaspoon whole Sichuan pepper (optional)

2 ounces snow vegetable, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

If using fresh soybeans, bring a pan of water to a boil, add salt, then the beans. Return to a boil, then cook for about five minutes, until tender. Drain well. (Frozen soybeans are already cooked.)

Heat a seasoned wok over a high flame. Add the oil and swirl it around. If using the spices, add them now and sizzle them very briefly until you can smell their fragrances and the chilies are darkening but not burned. Then add the snow vegetable and stir-fry briefly until fragrant.

Add the beans and stir-fry briefly until everything is hot and delicious, seasoning with salt to taste. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.

Excerpted from Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop. Copyright 2013 by Fuchsia Dunlop. Excerpted by permission of W.W. Norton & Co.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Fuchsia Dunlop has a Found Recipe, and before she shares it with us, she wants you to free your mind when it comes to Chinese food. Don't think about takeout. Don't think about thick flavored sauces. Do not think about deep-fried meat.

FUCHSIA DUNLOP: Really, the traditional diet is all about vegetables. In the past, most people couldn't afford to eat much meat, so they had to concentrate on making their everyday vegetarian produce taste sensational.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: Fuchsia Dunlop is from Oxford, England. She trained as a chef at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine, and for the last two decades, she's been traveling around China, collecting recipes and writing about food. Her latest book is "Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking."

DUNLOP: The dish I'm going to talk to you about today is xue cai mao dou.

SIEGEL: And, of course, Dunlop speaks Mandarin. No worries, she'll translate.

DUNLOP: Xue cai, that means literally snow vegetable. It's a kind of pickled mustard green. Mao dou means hairy beans.

SIEGEL: What? Hairy beans?

DUNLOP: Or green soybeans.

SIEGEL: Aha.

DUNLOP: They're mostly known in the West by their Japanese name, edamame.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUNLOP: Soybeans are often dried and then made into tofu. But if they're harvested when they're very young and green, then you can eat them as vegetable. And they just have a particularly pleasing flavor. They're a bit firmer than peas, and I think they're rather more delicious.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUNLOP: They've had different versions of this dish in different parts of China, but the one that really sticks in my mind was in the hills of southern Zhejian province. That's a bit inland from Shanghai. I'd gone out with a restauranteur from Hangzhou, picking up consignments of vegetables or pork from small peasant households.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUNLOP: So it was late morning on this sunny day, and we've been wandering around with the chickens on the slopes above the farmhouse and seeing the cinnamon trees and the loquat trees. So we walked down to the house, and we walked in through the door into the dining room. And in the light that was falling in through the door, there was this table covered in dishes that the grandmother of the household, Mao Sai-lan(ph), had cooked for our lunch. There were salted duck eggs in their shells, winter melon chunks braised in soy sauce, potato slivers with spring onion and slices of home-cured (unintelligible). And there at the center of the table was this beautiful dish of bright-green soybeans with a slightly darker green pickled vegetable.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUNLOP: We sat down, and we ate this wonderful lunch. And then when I got home, the one that I really wanted to recreate was the green soybeans with stir-fried mustard greens.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUNLOP: I sometimes cook it just with the snow vegetable and the green soybeans, and sometimes, I add a bit of chili and Sichuan pepper to give it a Sichuanese touch, a little bit of spicy pizzazz. I just have it with a bit of steamed rice, and it's very satisfying.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUNLOP: And this dish, like many sort of Chinese supper dishes, is so easy to make. You know, it's just a couple of ingredients. It'll take you a few minutes, tastes delicious, very healthy.

(LAUGHTER)

DUNLOP: I think people are often very intimidated by Chinese food, but, you know, the people in China, they're busy. They're just trying to make something satisfying for their family at the end of the day. And this dish is just an example of how people rustle up a quick stir-fry for supper.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: That's Fuchsia Dunlop, and you can get the recipe for xue cai mao dou at the Found Recipes page at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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