While I've previously had a gentle dig at mix-and-match meat-in-sauce Chinese takeaway dishes, the presence of mix-and-match green vegetable dishes on a Chinese menu is actually a good sign. Generic Anglo-Chinese food often neglects the vegetable side of things, aside from items like "mixed seasonal vegetables" (rarely actually seasonal) and "stirfried beansprouts", but a good Chinese restaurant will offer several green vegetable options, cooked in a number of styles. The Red Cook blog has a nice post on this subject.
Here are some leafy (and other) greens you might see listed on a menu:
|豆苗||dòu miáo||mangetout leaves/pea shoots|
|通菜||tōng cài||water spinach/morning glory/ong choy|
|空心菜||kōng xīn cài||another name for 通菜|
|菜心||cài xīn||choy sum|
|芥蘭||jiè lán||Chinese broccoli/gai lan|
|西芥蘭||xī jiè lán||Western broccoli/calabrese|
|冬瓜||dōng guā||winter melon|
|苦瓜||kǔ guā||bitter gourd|
You might also see 時菜 (shí cài), which means "seasonal vegetables" — and for completeness' sake, I should also mention 白菜 (bái cài), though given how thoroughly I've already covered this term, I expect regular readers already know more about it than they ever wanted to.
Here are some styles you might see these vegetables offered in:
|豉汁/豆豉||chǐ zhī/dòu chǐ||with black bean sauce|
|豉汁辣椒||chǐ zhī là jiāo||with black bean and chilli sauce|
|蒜泥/蒜茸/蒜蓉||suàn ní/suàn róng/suàn róng||with mashed/minced garlic|
|清炒||qīng chǎo||plain stirfried|
|姜汁/姜絲||jiāng zhī/jiāng sī||with ginger|
|上湯||shàng tāng||in consommé|
|XO醬||XO jiàng||with XO sauce|
|蠔油||háo yóu||with oyster sauce|
A few notes on some of these:
- The 汁 (zhī) in 豉汁 and 姜汁 literally means "juice" or "gravy"; the alternative names use the characters 豆 (dòu/bean) and 絲 (sī/shredded).
- The literal translation of 上湯 (shàng tāng) is "superior soup". 上 also appears in 螞蟻上樹 (mǎ yǐ shàng shù/ants climbing a tree) and 上海 (Shànghǎi, literally "above the ocean").
- While XO sauce is named after XO cognac, it doesn't actually contain any. It's a spicy, savoury, slightly oily sauce made with Chinese ham, dried scallops, dried prawns, and other such delicious ingredients. See Helen Yuet Ling Pang's post on XO sauce for more info.
Interestingly, the menu pictured at the top of this post offers both 清炒 and 嗆炒 as options, translating the former as "plain fried" and the latter as "stir fried". According to mandarintools.com, 嗆 means "pungent"
, so I'm not entirely sure what 嗆炒 actually does mean. Update, August 2010: I tried asking about this in the restaurant the menu belongs to, but had a lot of trouble making myself understood. After going around in a few conversational circles I gave up and just ordered some 嗆炒空心菜 — it turned out to be stirfried with dried red chillies and Sichuan peppercorns. Update II, August 2010: I've just noticed I was writing that character wrong — it's 熗, not 嗆. mandarintools.com says 熗 means "to cook in soy". So now I am even more baffled.