Asian Vegetables - How to Cook and Grow

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Asian food has seen a huge rise in popularity in recent years. For many, it began with the emergence of Chinese restaurants and fast food takeaways, which led to our predilection for Indian curries and more recently Thai and Japanese specialities. As our willingness to learn to cook Asian food grew so did our appreciation of the ingredients and cookery methods used.

The health benefits of modern, light Asian dishes with crunchy vegetables, salads, steamed and grilled fish has struck a chord with many and now these ingredients are becoming increasingly available to the chef and home cook.

The key to good Asian food is freshness; the Asian cook will buy food fresh from the market on the day they intend to consume it, often still alive. Vegetables are an important part of the daily Asian diet, be it as part of the dish or the main ingredient it will always be fresh and used to give texture and balance to a meal. Vegetables tend to be cooked on the crunchy side or left raw to maximize their vitamin count and act as a foil to soft noodles or delicate fish. Interestingly, for as important as the use of fresh vegetables is, the practice of preserving vegetables and fruit is commonplace throughout the region.

The Chinese are renowned for their pickled root vegetables which can be chilli hot and so often used in Sichuan cookery whilst the Indians are masters of pickling fruits and vegetables for side dishes. Vegetables tend to be cooked quickly and simply with the minimum amount of fuss, often just stir fried with some slivers of garlic, ginger and chilli and seasoned with soy or fish sauce.

Of course for many, religious beliefs decree that the eating of meat is forbidden and so we can enjoy the wonderful vegetarian food of India, Thailand and Malaysia. As Supermarkets have acknowledged the demand for Asian food so have the seed suppliers and garden centres. It is now possible to grow many Asian vegetables, salads and herbs in the west given the right conditions and this section is devoted to the growing and cooking techniques of the myriad of flavours and textures offered by Asian vegetables.

Bamboo Shoots
Bean Sprouts
Bok Choy
Chinese Celery
Chinese Mustard
Chinese Spinach
Pak Choi
Pea Aubergines
Spring Onions
Water Chestnut

see also Exotic Fruit & Vegetables