ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Fuchsia Dunlop has a Found Recipe, and before she shares it with us, she wants you to free your mind when it comes to Chinese food. Don't think about takeout. Don't think about thick flavored sauces. Do not think about deep-fried meat.

FUCHSIA DUNLOP: Really, the traditional diet is all about vegetables. In the past, most people couldn't afford to eat much meat, so they had to concentrate on making their everyday vegetarian produce taste sensational.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: Fuchsia Dunlop is from Oxford, England. She trained as a chef at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine, and for the last two decades, she's been traveling around China, collecting recipes and writing about food. Her latest book is "Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking."

DUNLOP: The dish I'm going to talk to you about today is xue cai mao dou.

SIEGEL: And, of course, Dunlop speaks Mandarin. No worries, she'll translate.

DUNLOP: Xue cai, that means literally snow vegetable. It's a kind of pickled mustard green. Mao dou means hairy beans.

SIEGEL: What? Hairy beans?

DUNLOP: Or green soybeans.

SIEGEL: Aha.

DUNLOP: They're mostly known in the West by their Japanese name, edamame.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUNLOP: Soybeans are often dried and then made into tofu. But if they're harvested when they're very young and green, then you can eat them as vegetable. And they just have a particularly pleasing flavor. They're a bit firmer than peas, and I think they're rather more delicious.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUNLOP: They've had different versions of this dish in different parts of China, but the one that really sticks in my mind was in the hills of southern Zhejian province. That's a bit inland from Shanghai. I'd gone out with a restauranteur from Hangzhou, picking up consignments of vegetables or pork from small peasant households.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUNLOP: So it was late morning on this sunny day, and we've been wandering around with the chickens on the slopes above the farmhouse and seeing the cinnamon trees and the loquat trees. So we walked down to the house, and we walked in through the door into the dining room. And in the light that was falling in through the door, there was this table covered in dishes that the grandmother of the household, Mao Sai-lan(ph), had cooked for our lunch. There were salted duck eggs in their shells, winter melon chunks braised in soy sauce, potato slivers with spring onion and slices of home-cured (unintelligible). And there at the center of the table was this beautiful dish of bright-green soybeans with a slightly darker green pickled vegetable.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUNLOP: We sat down, and we ate this wonderful lunch. And then when I got home, the one that I really wanted to recreate was the green soybeans with stir-fried mustard greens.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUNLOP: I sometimes cook it just with the snow vegetable and the green soybeans, and sometimes, I add a bit of chili and Sichuan pepper to give it a Sichuanese touch, a little bit of spicy pizzazz. I just have it with a bit of steamed rice, and it's very satisfying.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUNLOP: And this dish, like many sort of Chinese supper dishes, is so easy to make. You know, it's just a couple of ingredients. It'll take you a few minutes, tastes delicious, very healthy.

(LAUGHTER)

DUNLOP: I think people are often very intimidated by Chinese food, but, you know, the people in China, they're busy. They're just trying to make something satisfying for their family at the end of the day. And this dish is just an example of how people rustle up a quick stir-fry for supper.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: That's Fuchsia Dunlop, and you can get the recipe for xue cai mao dou at the Found Recipes page at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.