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Can somebody help me identify this delicious vegetable?

k
kitchenprof Jul 20, 2009 11:57 PM

I still don't know that what this plant is, but I can't get enough of it!

In the last couple years I've gotten in the habit of shopping at the Asian grocery stores out in Elmhurst, Queens. And the incredible array of vegetables, condiments and sauces has really made cooking a blast. And every time I bring something home I've never had before.

Sometimes the signs on the vegetables are in English. Often they're not. When I'm not sure what I'm buying at one particular market, I watch the screen as they ring it up and see what they call it. This particular one is identified as "sun choy" on their system. However, searches on the web using this name or "sun choi" have been pretty fruitless thus far.

I believe it's a brassica, and probably from tropical or subtropical Asia. It tastes more like a water plant. It's rich and a little slimy when you crunch into the stems. And I think it tastes fantastic. Sort of like a combination of okra, spinach and Chinese broccoli.

I'm still experimenting with it. But the stalks are interesting in a stir fry (with shrimp paste or belecan and some shallots and garlic for example) and in quick noodle soups. And the leaves add a rich foundation as part of the greens in a salad. And you could certainly blanch this stuff and just toss a little olive oil or butter on it. Plenty of flavor.

Anyway, I really love this stuff and I'd like to learn more about it. Anyone have a clue?

 
  1. meatn3 Jul 21, 2009 01:18 AM

    From the photo it looks like it could be malabar spinach. Sometimes the stem is red.

    3 Replies
    1. re: meatn3
      k
      kitchenprof Jul 21, 2009 01:51 AM

      Well, I'm glad I included the photo.

      You are absolutely right. It is malabar spinach, also known as saan choy-- or Ceylon spinach, Vietnamese spinach, shan tsoi, luo kai, shu chieh, lo kwai, tsuru murasa kai, mong toi, paag-prung, genjerot, jingga, gendola or just "slippery vegetable. I can see why it's has so many names in so many languages. It's that good.

      Thanks so much for the quick response. And it's a brassica too! But a vine plant. And very tropical, as I thought. Amazing. And it thickens soup like okra too!

      Now that's solved, I'd be curious what others do with this yummy vegetable. I saw a woman who looked like she was from Bangladesh packing up a big bag of it the other day. I should have asked her what she was going to cook.

      Thanks again.

      1. re: kitchenprof
        greygarious Jul 21, 2009 06:47 AM

        Wikipedia lists a different bunch of names for it, and says it's Basella, not Brassica.
        Sounds very interesting but with so many possible names, I think I'd have better luck identifying it by look than label. What are the approximate dimensions of the leaves and diameter of the stems? Any heads or buds? There are Asian growers at my farmers market but usually the produce is unlabeled and some of the vendors speak no English at all.

        1. re: kitchenprof
          d
          dmd_kc Jul 21, 2009 12:57 PM

          I almost never do anything too complicated with it. Stir fries are my favorite, as you note above. Blanch, then toss with lots of garlic and hot chili. Per your suggestion, I'm going to seek out some belecan and give that a whirl.

          I used it in place of Swiss chard in baked leaves stuffed with cheese, dried tomatoes, garlic, onions and pine nuts once. Wasn't a fan of that. It lost most of its flavor, I thought.

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