"不时，不食" bù shí bù shí
Do not eat food out of season.
People in my hometown Suzhou and Eastern China, south of Yangtze River, follow Confucius' philosophy when it comes to food. Though there is a large variety of fresh seasonal produce in the US, like peas, beets, artichokes, chard, and asparagus, I miss the food I grew up eating. Luckily I can make some seasonal dishes from my hometown in the US.
I want to introduce a few of my favorite food in Spring. While it is not easy to find fresh ingredients here, you can try some substitutes and frozen versions.
BILUOCHUN TEA 碧螺春
Biluochun means "green, snail, spring" for its bright color and shape. It is one of the top ten famous tea in China. See the full list.
The tea strips are delicate and curled up like snails. The stripes stretch into whole leaves when steeping in hot water (80-85 °C or 175-185 °F). Biluochun is loved by many for its elegant, refreshing fragrance and clear green tea color.
The best Biluochun is picked and prepared before April. Getting the current year's tea is almost impossible since the freshest ones are consumed in China. However, you can find good Biluochun from tea importers in the US.
If you are interested, before you purchase from a website or Amazon, feel free to send the link to me to check the quality.
Kalimeris Indica/ Indian Aster/ Aster Indicus
Malantou has a very refreshing, herby, and unique taste. It is essentially a herb, or we call this "wild vegetable."
The taste is slightly bitter and grassy. Blanch malantou before cooking is a good way to remove the grassiness.
Finely chop malantou and dried tofu, then add salt, sugar, sesame oil, and MSG or other umami powder to make a salad dish.
You can also stir-fry malantou. Add whatever seasoning you like and a splash of Shaoxing cooking wine to remove the grassy taste.
Frozen Kalimeris Indica is relatively more available in the US. If you want to try fresh ones, search on the internet where to buy seeds and live plants.
Sheperd's Purse/Capsella Bursa-Pastoris
Shepard's purse is a flowering plant in the mustard family. It has a mild mustard and peppery taste. It is a great ingredient for wontons and spring rolls.
Here is a short clip of me making wontons. Video
The frozen Shepard's purse is a great substitute for fresh ones. And frozen wontons are available in Chinese markets if you want to try this ingredient before cooking it.
Shepard's purse is also great in tofu soup and stir-fried rice cakes. Blanch it in boiling water for 1 minute before cooking.
Fresh Pork and Salted Pork Stew
The main ingredients of this dish are salted pork, fresh pork, and fresh bamboo shoots. Yan 腌 is salted, Du 笃 means slow simmered, and Xian 鲜 is umami in Mandarin.
While some families prefer spring bamboo shoots in China (image above), fresh winter bamboo (image below) is more available in the US.
Contact me to learn more about any of the ingredients above.