Crispy Noodles

Chinese vegetables list

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Have you been awed by the array of Asian vegetables at an Asian market? Knowing some of these and their various name variations should help you choose some to cook with.

Many Asian reference books and cookbooks are quite difficult to understand. It took me a while to compile and write the information below in a way I could understand and appreciate myself.

I hope this list becomes a good starting point for many who are interested in Chinese cooking to get to know some common Chinese vegetables. Pictures of these vegetables are included as much as possible. Use them to spot them in your local market and learn how to prepare them.

The list is quite long so you might want to jump quickly to the vegetable you are looking for:

Photo by Charles Haynes

Name Variations

I discover that many of the English names of Asian vegetables are transliterated from the Cantonese dialect rather than from Mandarin. This is probably due to the Cantonese being the earliest immigrants to the West. A good example of this is bok choy. The Mandarin name is 小白菜 (xiao bai cai). I will include the Mandarin name as transliterated in hanyu pinyin.

Names of the vegetables may also vary from region to region. You can see some lively discussions over names in the comments section below.

Bean sprouts 豆芽 (dou ya)

A plate of blanched bean sprouts. Photo by Charles Haynes

Bean sprouts is a generic term for sprouts from any kind of beans. However in Chinese cuisine, it generally refers to either the mung bean sprouts or the soy bean sprouts.

Bitter melon 苦瓜 (ku gua)

Bitter melons in various sizes. Photo by Seth Anderson

Bitter melon 苦瓜 (ku gua) is a fruit of a climbing vine. It is pale green and cucumber-like with a bumpy, grooved skin. The centre of the fruit is white and spongy with the seeds embedded within. Click for more information and recipes.

Bok choy or pak choy 小白菜 (xiao bai cai)

A plate of baby bok choy at a hotpot dinner. Photo by Phoebe Lim

Also known as chinese white cabbage, pak choy (another transliteration of the cantonese), 白菜 (bai cai) and chinese chard. Click for more information and recipes.

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