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Jul 25, 2000 10:45 AM

Chinese Greens, help!

  • g

I've been eating at a noodle shop in Philly's chinatown lately (for a write-up, see Pennsylvania board), mostly because I really like their noodle dishes. But I would really like to be able to get greens there to go with my noodles--chinese mustard, snow pea tips, whatever--but the problem is they don't have them on the menu. I know they'll make them because I have seen others eating them there, and because last night I got some really tasty sauteed bok choy that wasn't on the menu. Here's the crux of my problem: they speak virtually no english at this noodle house, and I speak no chinese (none of any dialect). I got the bok choy, because that's the one chinese green I know the chinese name of.

my question, then: what are some names of other chinese greens that the restauranteers might understand? I know they don't know the english names because I tried that. I don't know what part of China they're from, nor do I know whether that's an issue in this case.



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  1. Gabriel--there are several threads discussing chinese greens on our general topics board (where this discussion belongs, by the way).

    We're thinking about giving chinese restaurant ordering lessons via the internet, actually. Currently brainstorming on how to do it (the actual audio of pronunciation is tricky, but maybe we can do it with real smart phonetic instructions.

    I'll get you started, though. Snow pea leaves are "dow myoo", and watercress is "tong choy".


    7 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff

      And don't forget Gai Lon (chinese broccoli) and
      Yu Choy. And water spinach!

      In oyster sauce or sauteed in a simple white sauce with fresh garlic.. yum.

      1. re: Jason Perlow
        Josh Mittleman

        A few times I've had a green that the waiter called "hollow cress". It looks like watercress but has thick, hollow stems. Does anyone know its proper name?

        1. re: Josh Mittleman

          sounds like it might be water spinach (kangkong) which looks quite different fresh but cooks down to a mass like watercress.

          1. re: jen kalb
            Chris Bridges

            Sorry this isn't too timely, but I haven't been able to check in to these boards as often as I'd like....

            "sounds like it might be water spinach (kangkong) which looks quite different fresh but cooks down to a mass like watercress"

            Yes, I think we're talking about water spinach (usually described as having a hollow stem). In most local Chinatown places it's called "ong choy."

            Also, Jim, as far as I know watercress (which you referred to as "tong choy") is called (phonetically)
            "sai yun choy." I'd translate "tong choy" as "soup vegetable."


            1. re: Chris Bridges
              Gabriel Solis

              Yes, I'd been meaning to post on this:

              I was at a nice place in Philly on Cherry between 9th and 10th, the other day. THey had three different greens on the menu (not something I'd seen before). I got the watercress, and asked the waitress what she called it. She said, with a look of derision, "watercress." After explaining that what I meant was, what is its naim in chinese, she said, "Sai Yung Choy."



              1. re: Chris Bridges

                Chris--you're right, I'm abashed to say. As I ate my foo yee tong choy, I was thinking this sure was some awfully stalky watercress! But I wasn't in a complaining mood, as I was blissing out on the wonderful sauce that had been merely drizzled on when I ordered in English, but was positively deluged after ordering in the mother tongue. The vegetable itself was mere canvas.

                Ok, sai yun choy it is (and I'm grateful for your help!). Voice raising, falling, portamento, what?


                1. re: Jim Leff
                  Chris Bridges

                  "Ok, sai yun choy it is (and I'm grateful for your help!). Voice raising, falling, portamento, what?"

                  Oh gee; we'll have to ask some of our Cantonese-speaking friends about that. I'm lucky I get it when I ask for it!!! I would say the first syllable is a higher tone; the second lower; and the third somewhere between the two. But don't quote me.....

      2. g
        Grace Edwards

        You might consider visiting one source of those delicious greens. Here in Amherst, Massachusetts (home of UMass) we have a Chinese farmer, Mr. Chang, who grows them all and also runs a wonderful restaurant called "Amherst Chinese" where his organically-grown greens in season are featured in the daily specials. He manages to continue growing some of them throughout the winter as well in his greenhouses. Best of all, his greens are for sale every Saturday morning at the farmer's market on the village green. Come to the market and Mr. Chang, or one of his family members, will probably be happy to help you identify and properly pronouce the names of his wonderful vegetables.

        P.S. Nobody's paying me to write any of this! It's just for the love of the local bounty of our beautiful valley. We have so many local organic farms, and wonderful produce and dairy products. Amherst Chinese is at 62 Main St. FYI