I am always shocked and pleased at the selection of Chinese produce on offer at New Tin’s — and I do mean specifically produce, as the shelf-stable selection here is just okay.
I knew I had to make this post after I spotted for sale out front yesterday 茭白 or wild rice stems, which are tasty Shanghainese vegetables that are very hard to come by in the US (they are banned from import!)
Here’s an image gallery with some of my purchases over the years at New Tin’s, followed by a few write ups/reviews of my favorite hard-to-find produce (apologies for the terrible angles, I get suspicious looks when I methodically take pictures of produce at Asian grocery stores so I take them quickly).
- 龍鬚菜 “Dragon Whiskers Vegetable” aka the vines of the Chayote plant. It has these beautiful curlicues, as you can see on my cutting board — but unfortunately none of the curls are edible and they need to be peeled off/trimmed before cooking. What we’re after here is the juicy stems, which has a tender, chewy texture that feels like asparagus when braised (燜 i do not know how to translate this cooking technique so I’m going with braised). Appears to be popular in Taiwan.
- 冰菜 “ice plant” This African plant apparently has recently become popular in Southern China thanks to its very unique texture and flavor. It has these waxy beads on the surface of its leaves that look like dew drops, and they make the leaves keep a crisp exterior even after cooking. The leaves are also very salty, so you don’t have to add much to this vegetable to enjoy it. Best in salads, cold dishes, or in a very simple stir fry.
- 紫菜心 “Purple choy sum” I think the only difference between this and regular choy sum is the color. Chefs use it to bring out the color of bright red chillis, like in this Hunanese recipe I have where the vegetable is blanched and then dressed with raw heaven facing chilli, garlic, and toasted sesame oil.
- 刀豆 “Sword bean" These big meaty beanpods can be cut on the diagonal and stir fried however you like.
- 鷄毛菜 “Chicken feather vegetable” A very slender variety of bok choi. I am not sure what their traditional culinary purpose is, but I often put them in noodle dishes since they’re not as intrusive to the slurping experience as those big slices of regular bok choi.
Some other stuff I’ve spotted for sale at New Tin’s include fresh sand ginger, 刺瓜 spiny gourd, 絲瓜 luffa gourd, 水瓜 sponge gourd and 螺絲椒 Hunanese curly pepper. I would love to know how they source some of this stuff, as their rival Chinese grocers don’t carry nearly the same breath of selection as New Tin’s does.
I’m still on the hunt for a couple of Chinese vegetables that New Tin’s does not carry, has anyone ever spotted shepherd’s purse, 蕨菜 long-stemmed fiddlehead fern or 芽苗菜 Chinese-style alfalfa sprouts anywhere? Please let me know if you have below!