Choi Identification: Local Tong Choi (本地白骨通菜)

Water spinach, water morning glory, Chinese watercress…these are just a few of the names that this week’s featured choi is known as! We know it best as tong choi, a nutty and tender vegetable that can be used in a variety of dishes. This week, we found a great deal for tong choi at Jia Mei Market, one of Chinatown’s major green grocers.

IMG_0192 Our local green grocers referred to tong choi as ong choy or “白骨通菜” (pronounced as baak gwat tong choi in Cantonese and bái tōng cài in Mandarin), with the the first two characters “白骨,” referring to the white variety of 通菜 that is grown. Translated directly, these characters literally mean white bone! With that being said, tong choi is more simply known as 通菜” (c: tung choi m: tōng cài). The Chinese name for tong choi is quite fitting, as “通” can mean open or [the ability to] pass through, which which is an accurate description of the hollow stalks that this vegetable is known for! In Mandarin, tong choi is also known as 空心菜 literal meaning “Empty Heart Veggie” but really also refers to the vegetable’s hollow stalks.

How to select and prepare

IMG_0193Pick 通菜 with rigid leaves and thin, firm stalks (thicker stalks will yield a tougher texture after cooking). Green leaves are also a good indication of tenderness. To prepare 通菜, remove thicker stalks and roots (if any) and break into smaller pieces for easier consumption.

A popular Cantonese style for cooking 通菜 involve stir-frying the vegetables in fermented bean curd, otherwise known as “腐乳” (pronounced as fu jyu in Cantonese or in Mandarin). 腐乳 provides a delicious, savoury element that also enhances the creaminess of the dish. Other methods for cooking 通菜 include enjoying it in hot pot, pairing it with steam fish, or even tofu. Either way, the hollow stems of 通菜 are great for soaking up your chosen sauce and will definitely make a delicious addition to your next meal!

To learn more about other local choi in Chinatown, click here.