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Preserved Vegetables for Hunan Cooking (SEA)

I, like others, I'm sure, have been cooking Hunan dishes out of Fuschia Dunlop's Revolutionary Chinese Cuisine, which has been a great book so far.

I need to get the preserved vegetables, which are called for in several dishes.

Pickled mustard greens, pao cai. She mentions a Thai brand sold in Chinese markets.
Preserved mustard greens, suan cai. She says these are very rare, at least in London, but "Tianjin preserved vegetable" is a substitute.
Preserved mustard tuber, zha cai. Sold as "Sichuan preserved vegetable".

I went to Uwajimaya and found only Camel brand preserved mustard greens, but these had chili oil and peanuts included, and I think that should be avoided.

Anyone got leads? I anticipate some mentions of Ranch 99, but I'd like to avoid near future travel to Lynnwood or Federal Way if I can. I realize this is a relatively arcane query, and I appreciate any assistance. Thanks.

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  1. If it's the same thing, I needed preserved vegetables for her dan dan noodle recipe from the "Land of Plenty" book. That's "Sichuanese ya cai" I believe (again, with Tianjin preserved vegetable as the substitute). Showed it to the owner of Viet Wah, who's been helpful to me many times, and he steered me to a dark-colored crock that I use. Salty stuff, so I try to rinse it a bit. Good stuff, but not convinced it's the right thing, and I see an interesting write-up about the issue here:
    http://www.kitchenchick.com/the_shopp...

    1. You are correct in thinking the stuff with the chili and peanuts is not right for the receipes. It is, however, just right for congee.

      Pre-moving to Seattle, I always used to buy my sichuan preserved veg at Ranch 99. The bright side is that it comes in a foil packet with just the right amount for most dishes and has a half life so you can buy a million small packets and stuff them in the fridge and always be prepared, at least until your husband uses the last of it and forgets to tell you so you discover the cupboard is bare just as you launch into preparing pork with preserved veg but I digress......................

      Not sure where you are but since moving, I have also found Tianjin preserved veg at the Oakwood? market up the 99 on the way to Lynwood---I think its in a location that used to house a Larrys? Anyrate, just a little bit above Ballard. It does come in a crock. I would also check the various little asian markets going up Jackson and maybe the Mekong supermarket on Rainer.

      3 Replies
      1. re: jenn

        I think the foil packets are what the Japanese call "za sai" - like salted/pickled turnips. Maybe not the same thing? It IS confusing.

        1. re: dimsumfan

          The foil packets--green and white by the way--- I got were decidedly the pickled mustard stuff and not turnip. I"ve bought the pickled turnip before and its not a good substitute.

          One thing that may cause confusion with the Dunlop book is, as I understand it, there was a type of mustard tuber from one particular region in Sichuan which went underwater with the construction of the dam. Now some people are passing off another type of mustard tuber as this special stuff [think france and champagne and rules for what is and isn't champagne] when its really regular mustard tuber.....or something like that.....

        2. re: jenn

          That would be the HT Oaktree Market

          HT OakTree Market
          10008 Aurora Ave N
          Seattle, WA 98133
          (206) 527-5333

          It is behind the IHOP building and next to the movie theater.

          -----
          HT OakTree Market
          10008 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98133

        3. Okay, I don't know specifics, but I would check in at Dong Hing. Unlike many of the other places (Viet wah, which is vietnamese and Uwajimaya, which is japanese) they are actually a chinese shop. They have a huge array of preserved veggies, and I know I've seen mustard greens among them, but I can't promise they are the right kind. But it might be worth checking in with them before a trip to the 'burbs.

          p.s. Dong Hing, not dong sing, as I appearantly sent someone to the wrong place previously on this board...

          1 Reply
          1. re: dagoose

            Went to Dong Hing. They have several brands of pickled mustard in clear plastic packages, all in 10-12 oz size from Thailand or Vietnam. Some are designated "no leaf", but all of these are more stalk than leaf.

            They also had a clear glass jar of "pickled preserved mustard" from Sichuan province. The ingredients include "spices", etc, so I'm not sure this will be right.

            I bought these two types to try, but I'm still on the lookout for a better product.

          2. HT on Aurora and 100th has lots 'o preserved veggies.

            1 Reply
            1. re: NickZ

              I found Tianjin Preserved Vegetable at the HT Oaktree on Aurora yesterday. Beware, it did not look like I was expecting. It was in a small, squat brown ceramic crock that was squished in amongst the dried fungus and other dried preserved items. It seemed to be packed in salt and worked well last night in her Dan Dan Mian!

            2. Preserved mustard greens (xue cai)? Why not make them yourself? From "Asian Pickles" by Karen Solomon:

              1 lb. curly mustard greens, well-washed. Bring to boil a big pot of water. Mix together:
              1/2 c. distilled white vinegar
              1 t. salt
              4 t. sugar. Add greens to pot. Cook and stir for 90 seconds. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool. Drain well, then really squeeze hard to get them as dry as possible. Roll them up in a kitchen towel. Trim off the tough ends, slice them in half-inch strips and add to the brine. Mix with your hands to unroll the greens. Pack into a 1-pint jar and cover. Let sit 24 hours, then refrigerate for 3 days before eating. Should keep 1 month, refrigerated.

              Sichuan preserved vegetable or zha cai is a swollen stem mustard. Rather than growing a tuber under the ground, it grows swollen nodules above the ground on the stem, somewhat like a kohlrabi, but lumpier. Seed is available from the Kitazawa Seed Co.(Kitazawaseed.com) and it should grow in your area. It is a cool-season crop that takes 120 day to reach maturity. Leaves of the immature plant can be eaten as greens, and the swollen stem can be peeled and cooked, but it is usually pickled in salt and chile. Sadly, I have not yet located the recipe for this.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MaMoses

                This! And MaMoses beat me to it. There are a lot of recipes out there, all slightly different, all easy, but most require some time. If you know the flavors you're shooting for, you should be able to come up with the right mustard pickle.