Tag Archives: zha cai

Ingredient: Preserved Vegetable, Zha Cai (榨菜)

26 May

Zha cai, out of the jar, not cut

So what is zha cai?  As its vaguely translated name suggests, it is a type of preserved vegetable.  The vegetable is a variant of mustard, sometimes referred to as Chinese mustard (no way!), and its leafy part is considered a rather fancy dish usually stir-fried with dried scallops and served at banquets.  

The root of this mustard is the part where zha cai comes from.  It is harvested and compressed down to yield all liquid, as “zha” in Chinese literally means compress.  It is preserved by salt and stored in clay jars.  The taste?  Crunchy and salty, which makes a great condiment for many things, such as the Sichuan style wontons

 Another famous dish zha cai is well known for is the pork zha cai noodles, as fried pork and zha cai is served over soup noodles.

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Grand Opening: Sichuan Style Wontons (紅油抄手)

18 May Sichuan Wontons

Wontons are definitely one of the most common foods in Chinese cuisine, and they vary from region to region, mostly popular in the south, as the north is better known for dumplings and buns.  The name for wonton also differs from one province to another. They are usually considered “snack food” in the afternoon or late night.  As I recall from childhood, they were often served in between ma jong games at my grandparents’.  And since my paternal grandma (nai-nai) was a native of Sichuan, the Sichuan style wontons are the ones I am most familiar with.

What goes into the wontons are 2 lbs of ground pork, 1/2 lb of shrimp, chopped, with rice wine, sesme oil, white pepper, and salt. Wrappers are store bought.

These “hot oil wontons” (as its literal translation denotes) are eaten dry, with a mixture of aromatic toppings (sans soup), which is different from the Canton and Shanghai styles, often served in a broth.

To cook the wontons:

Add wontons to a pot of boiling water.  When it is boiling again, add a cup of cold water to it.  When that comes to a boil, you’re done.  Remember: It is the same to cook fresh versus frozen wontons (as it will just take frozen wontons a bit longer to come to a boil), and there is NO need to defrost fozen wontons.

To serve:
Mix the finely chopped scallion, garlic, dried shrimp, zha cai (preserved vegetable) with soy sauce, hot oil, and sesame oil atop the wontons.

Wontons!

Toppings: Garlic, scallion, zha cai (preserved vegetable), and dried shrimp