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Where to find ya cai (preserved mustard green leaves and stems)?

I have been to Sunset Supermarket, New May Wah and various spots in Chinatown but cannot find it anywhere. It's an ingredient used in Fuschia Dunlop's latest cookbook. I can find lots of other preserved vegetables including zha cai and Tianjin. No one in any of the stores has been able to help, at New May Wah they said restaurants request it but they haven't carried it in years. Has anyone bought it or seen it locally?

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  1. There are several varieties available in the refrigerated pickled vegetable section at Nijiya in JTown.

    4 Replies
    1. re: possumspice

      Here's a thread on the LA board that mentions some of the brands available in this country and suggests looking for them in pouches in the refrigerated section.

      1. re: possumspice

        I think "ya cai" is different than the pickled mustard greens in the refrigerated section. I don't think "ya cai" is sour. Isn't it usually in the can like "zha cai"?

        1. re: singleguychef

          Tastes just like it to me. Not sour. I am referring to the refrigerated section by the kimchee etc, not the area in the front with the sushi. Label on back says mustard leaf or alternately mustard leaf and root.

        2. re: possumspice

          Just an update that I was indeed mistaken and thinking of zha cai.


        3. Were you able to get it anywhere? I'll try 99 Ranch and Pacific Super at some point, but none of the places along Clement have it.

          1. No luck at Pacific supermarket or Manila Market.

            1. Not really a direct answer, but Andrea Nguyen recently posted about it on her blog. http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/...

              She lives in the bay area. She might be willing to tell you where she bought it if you write her a note.

              1. In my perambulations in the South Bay, I found some at the Chinese supermarket that is in the same mall as Ramen Tenma at 487 Saratoga. This exact package two weeks ago piled in boxes near the refrigerated section on the right side of the market (as you walk in the entrance).

                4 Replies
                1. re: sfbing

                  That's Lion in same center as Tenma, so perhaps other branches will have it too. Guess the explosion of Sichuan restos is affecting retail supply too.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Score! The Newark location has the brand pictured in the OP. It's about $1.50 and the package is a lot thicker than I would have expected... I have no idea how I'm going to use this all.

                    After such a long search, I suspected it would be a let down in Fuchia Dunlop's Xie Laoban's Dan Dan Mein. Nope, it was worth the wait. Its flavor is more similar in flavor to Tianjin preserved vegetable than some of the other random packets I've picked up, but its a little bit earthier and there's no need to rinse or chop it.

                    It's also wetter than I was expecting--- Chili House on Clement, sister restaurant of Z & Y, tops their DDM with a crumbly black chunk of something I'd though was Ya Cai, but must be something different.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      The Newark location of Lion was out of it last month and today even the shelf sticker was missing. A restaurant owner in San Mateo told me they've been unable to source it recently as well.

                  2. This thread is a little dated and I just saw it.

                    I get variants of versions of these vegetables in neighborhood Chinese markets, both the various versions in the small packets and the canned, with and without hot pepper seasoning. (Note that some are heavily salted, in which case it can be useful to soak in advance in plenty of water, and drain, before using.) I find that this and the seasonings they're preserved in makes almost as much differnce as the specific vegetable, and that they all work in similar recipes.

                    Though it's zha cai, White Rabbit brand "Szechuen Preserved Vegetable (Mustard Tuber)" in 340g (12 oz.) cans, whole or shredded, is handy and cheap. (Conveniently if strangely labeled also in German, "Szechuen Praeserviertes Gemuese").

                    I've had good success making Sichuanese soups, DDM, etc. using these products, with the proviso about watching for excess salt.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: eatzalot

                      I think the issue is that some of us who have no Sichuan, or even Chinese heritage can't accurately distinguish between the various types f preserved vegetables. Often the small single-serve packets found everywhere are labeled simply "preserved vegetable" in English, but encompass a wide variety of labels in logograms. In the Chinese/Vietnamese supermarkets I frequent the preserved veggies in open bins, presumably locally preserved, are usually unlabeled, as it would be obvious to those who use them regularly what they are. If anyone has a good comparative guide to preserved vegetables I'd love to see it.

                      1. re: ...tm...

                        Agreed. Though for labeled products, when working from Sichuanese cookbooks like Dunlop's, which fastidiously show the Chinese characters, in which I'm not at all versed, I find it simple enough to compare with the labels. That's how I identified the White Rabbit cans as zha cai (besides, there's a picture of the plant on the label).

                        Maybe more important is that these preserved crunchy vegetables, which are so distinctive and characteristic of Sichuan, are broadly interchangeable in the same dishes with excellent results! My revelatory experience of making a "traditional" dan dan mian from Dunlop's first recipe -- simple, savory, with fresh herbs, no nut- or even sesame-paste glop, and amazingly complex and subtle -- occurred with one particular packaged preserve and now I use whatever is handy (like the aforesaid White Rabbit brand), with unfailingly delicious results.

                    2. I've purchased both ya cai and zha cai at 99 Ranch.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: emily

                        Ooh! Which location and in what section of the market?

                        1. re: hyperbowler

                          I bought them a while ago - either Cupertino or Mountain View. In the refrigerated section.