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Aug 9, 2012 07:50 PM

Wondering about pea shoots

Just ordered from Grand Sichuan on St. Mark's, and l can't help but wonder: what makes pea shoots (which l dearly love) so expensive? Most restaurants price them starting at at least $12/order. Are they very rare? Difficult to grow or store? What gives?

Also, who does your favorite pea shoots?

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  1. I love sauteed pea shoots at Sichuan Gourmet @39 St, their rendition is consistently excellent. This is such a simple dish that I often use it to judge the chef's ability. Sadly, only two restaurants (outside of Chinatown) have passed this test. SG is one of them.

    Above $12 is the Manhattan pricing, but sauteed greens are not cheaper in Chinese restaurants than, say, chicken. They shouldn't be treated as just a side, and of course both skill and effort are required to accentuate their delicate taste and complex texture.

    11 Replies
    1. re: diprey11

      Agreed. Vegetables are not merely "sides" in Chinese cuisine. They're just as important as protein dishes.

      1. re: Cheeryvisage

        But that doesn't explain the high price of pea shoots compared with other vegetables. On Congee Village's menu, other greens are $8-$10; pea shoots are $12. On Oriental Garden's menu, bok choy, watercress & spinach are all $16; pea shoots are $20. And I know from personal experience that pea plants are super easy to grow. So why are they so expensive?

        1. re: small h

          I don't have a good explanation for this, either. :/

          1. re: Cheeryvisage

            I think the main factor is customers' preferences.

            1. re: diprey11

              I agree. I think the main reason they cost more is that Chinese people prize them and consider them tastier than other green leafy vegetables like bok choy, choy sum, and ong choy. And except for sometimes having a yen for ong choy, I agree with them: pea shoots are tastier.

              1. re: Pan

                Well, pea shoots cost $1/lb more in supermarkets than most other tender greens. Having to pick and sort them manually is hard work. You can often see people on the floor working through a huge pile: quietly, meticulously.... yet I don't think that is a major factor in their pricing.
                OTOH, there are some restaurants where watercress, not pea shoots, are at a $3-4 premium.

      2. re: diprey11

        Thanks! Last night's shoots would've most certainly failed your test: while the flavor was good, the stems were very tough and woody. Who else passed your test?

        1. re: howdini

          The pea shoots that you buy on Canal or at Chatham Square are not always at their peak. In addition to woodiness, they can also be bitter. Someone with a more experienced eye can probably tell whether the ones available will be any good or not.

          1. re: howdini

            The other one is Hunan Manor @39th St and Lexington.
            There are some restaurants that can be hit or miss, but I personally value consistency..

            1. re: howdini

              they should have removed a lot of hte stems, precisely for the reason you didn't like it.

            2. re: diprey11

              There is no such thing as a side dish really in Chinese food. And every meal should have one dish of greens. Snow pea shoots is just the latest craze for Americans. Chinese people eat all kinds of greens and snow pea shoots aren't really all that exciting.

            3. There's two different kinds, the younger sprouts and the older ones (leaves). The latter tends to be more expensive because the leaves grow on a pretty fibery, tough stem. So most places pick the leaves off of the stems and that's waht you get. As a result, it's time consuming to pick and it significantly reduces your yield. I know this because i tried to cook it once and it was a total PITA.

              3 Replies
                1. re: FattyDumplin

                  +1 on this, I've helped my friends pick pea shoots and it takes forever.

                  1. re: adventuresinbaking

                    NEVER AGAIN! Will gladly pay the premium for someone else to do it.

                2. Pea shoots are more expensive because they are slow growing and must be picked by hand.