Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hon Tsai Tai

An interesting farmer's market find. It seems like this year there are a lot of unusual things showing up. Someone online compared this vegetable to bok choy, but it certainly doesn't look anything like it. Maybe it's a distant cousin.

The whole plant is supposed to be edible, and it's supposed to be good raw or cooked. Raw, it was a little sweet when tasted alone, so I thought it would be interesting in a salad

The purple stems and the flowers were really pretty, so I chopped the tops off of a bunch of them and used that part in the salad. Once they were combined with the rest of the greens, no strong flavor stood out, but that's not always a bad thing.

But then again, the yellow and purple added a lot of color and the stems added a bit of crunch that was nice in a salad full of soft spring greens. I'd get them again, just to toss some into a salad.

But I had a lot of salad greens and I wanted to see what else I could do with my new find.

I decided that I ought to cook the rest of the bunch, so I cut them into pieces about an inch long for easy eating, and sauteed them in a bit of olive oil. I tasted them, and found that the stems were pretty fibrous, particularly the larger pieces.

I saw some recipes online that said that these cooked quickly, like spinach, but these were a little chewier than I wanted to deal with. Kind of like asparagus, if you don't trim it enough. Oops.

Maybe I should have trimmed a bit more off the bottom. Or maybe I didn't cook them soon enough. I had them hanging around for a little while before I cooked them, and I swear I tasted a stem earlier and it wasn't nearly as chewy. But oh well, they were in the pot, so I carried on.

I added some water, soy sauce, and just a bit of lemon juice and let them cook down a bit more to see if I could get them a little less chewy.

Although the longer cooking got them softer, I think next time I'll rethink the trimming procedure. Maybe rip off the leaves since they cook faster, and then try to figure out where the stems are too fibrous and trim above that. Or maybe I'll cook them the same day I bring 'em home and see if that makes a difference.

I did like the flavor, and the texture of the softer stems was nice. I'll definitely give them another try when I see them again.


Janie said...

Wow! That plant is absolutely beautiful! I would Love to find that here...(but won't) Maybe I can grow it!

Anonymous said...

Interesting find indeed! Love the color.

Denine Severino Taylor said...

Hi! I just started with a CSA program and found your experience very helpful. I trimmed the heck out of them, added water, rice wine vinegar and a little soy sauce and they were really terrific! Thanks!

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