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Beyond Bok Choy: Guide to Asian Vegetables

by: Rosa Lo San Ross

New York NY: Artisan 1996, $25.00, Hardbound
ISBN: 1-885183-23-2

Reviewed by: Susan Asanovic
Fall Volume: 1996 Issue: 3(3) page(s): 17

I have collected many guides to Chinese vegetables, but none as useful or attractive as Beyond Bok Choy. Artisan publishes gorgeous cookbooks with drop-dead photography; this makes all the difference when earning about Asian veggies. The mung beans, for example, almost jump right off the page to my wok. All those leafy greens, roots, sprouts, and shoots which can have many names are dymystified. Now that we can find a lot of Asian produce in mainstream markets and even organically grown veggies in the burgeoning farmers' markets, it behoves us to understand them.

Ross is an educator and a caterer. In addition to the marvelous recipes, she discusses selection, storage, home cultivation, and nutrition of each vegetable, highlighting particularly healthy vegetables and their Yin-Yang and medicinal qualities. For example, bitter melon is a source of quinine and winter melon often used in tonic soups.

Most recipes are very easy to make. If you can boil water, you can make Candied Lotus Root or advance to fresh tasting Celery with Tofu and Black Mushrooms. Rosa is from Hong Kong, the most international of great food cities, and she treats her vegetables with a fusion outlook (i.e.: Wilted Mizuma with Balsamic Vinegar, and Sweet Potato Pudding--with very non-oriental cream). Her French scallion crepes enclose roast duck and are called Spring Rolls. Her Asian dishes are best and often unusual. Germanic Kohlrabi is out of place here, but the Kudzu Noodle Soup is interesting from a historical viewpoint. It surely originated as a poor people's dish with any available meat bones, and invasive vegetables and a few noodles.

In this lovely to use, slender hardcovered guide, we hear thye teacher speaking. She reminds that eggplant does not go well in stir-fries, that the Chinese love the relatively new chayote because it resembles the 'folded hands of Budda.' I love it in her Chayote and Snow Pea Salad. I also love her ways with greens. The following recipe, from page 50 uses a personal favorite vegetable. It is written in the style of all recipes fround in Flavor and Fortune.

Note: This book was reviewed by Susan Asanovic. M.S., R.D., one of our editorial advisers, frequent contributor; and a Registered Dietician who knows and loves vegetables.

Three Ways with Water Spinach
1 pound water spinach (also known as hollow-stem vegetable)
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 scallion, green and white parts minced
2 teaspoons flavoring of choice such as: shrimp paste or two tablespoons pickled tofu with chili (reviewers choice), or two tablespoons fish sauce such as nuoc mam or nam pla
1. Wash and trim the spinach. Separate the stems from the leaves and keep them separated.
2. Heat the oil in a wok and add garlic, ginger and a scallion. Stir-fry for thirty seconds.
3. Add flavoring of choice, one-quarter cup water, and spinach stems. Reduce the heat and cover the pan; simmer about one minute or until the stems are tender.
4. Add the leaves and stir-fry to wilt, tossing constantly. Cook three to five minutes or until the spinach is soft and strongly flavored.

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