Tianjin Preserved Vegetable
Encouraged by the stemmed ginger thread (which I couldn't find in my local market), I bought a lovely little brown stoneware crock of "Tianjin Preserved Vegetable", ing.-Tianjin cabbage, garlic, salt...
I notice that the nutritional info is by the tablespoon, so before I open it, and explore further; is it a relish? A pickle to serve with congee? An ingredient to use with stir-fry? I'll explore, but I thought maybe someone would know the real deal...And the crock is very cute. :)
I put it in with jouk (congee) as it's cooking, as opposed to just serving it on the side, as shown to me by a Beijinger. It's salty and slightly dried up so cooking it will reconstitute it slightly and let the flavor spread. Check it before you put it in the pot, it can sometimes have bits of straw or hard stems in it.
My guess is a congee condiment. Also, as one of the ingredients in stuffing for baozi (the large steamed buns) along with meat, or jiaozi(the small steamed or boiled dumplings).
Pickles are often served on little plates as an appetizer in many local resturants.
It is used as a flavor enhancer in some of the Chinese and Southeast Asian dishes. I use it in Pad Thai where it calls for "preserved vegetables". I also use it in a Vietnamese Noodle Soup called "mien Ga" which is basicly bean thread noodle in chicken soup.
My mom used to mix it with ground pork in a chinese steamed pork dish. Unfortunately, I don't have a recipe for the pork dish.
So, I finally tried the Pad Thai recipe from the July 2002 Cooks' Illustrated, because I remembered that it called for preserved vegetable and tamarind, which I usually don't use in PT...Recipe was great, tho I would use 1/2 hot water for dissolving the tamarind pulp, not the 3/4 c. they called for...And way less oil...And add extra Tianjin Vegetable! This stuff is great; pre-chopped, dryish and salty, it's what Fish sauce hopes to be when it grows up...People say the fish sauce we get in this country doesn't touch those found in Vietnam and Thailand, maybe this helps "up" the intensity.
I will offer something not yet mentioned, but sorry I don't have the source material with me. I recall buying a pickled vegetable (mostly cabbage?) in a brown crock many years ago to use in a recipe from THE MODERN ART OF CHINESE COOKING by Barbara Tropp. It was a dry fried string bean recipe. May have included a tiny bit of chopped pork or dried shrimp too. I just remember it was good, and that the pickled veg lasts long time.