Category Archives: Choi Identification

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.

Choi Identification: Local Pole Beans (家鄉心豆仔)

IMG_0180One of the best things about shopping in Chinatown during the summertime is the variety of fresh, local, and affordable produce available for purchase, – you’d be surprised by what you can find! This week, we were excited to find freshly picked, homegrown pole beans at Carley Quality Meats, sourced from hua folks aka “” (pronounced as waa jan in Cantonese and huá rén in Mandarin) who were growing from their very own backyard here in Vancouver. Turns out, Carley Quality Meats has been selling home grown produce for quite some time. For example, they sourced fresh choi grown by one of their employee’s sister last year. Now that’s an example of a local economy!

As one of the employees explained, homegrown pole beans aka “豆仔” (pronounced as gaa hoeng sum dau zai in Cantonese and jiā xiāng xīn dòu zǎi in Mandarin) is quite popular amongst the local shoppers. Long, crisp and fresh, it’s easy to see why this veg is a crowd favourite. It even brought back childhood memories for Angela, our summer staff, of the (aka beans) that her mom used to grow in their backyard.

How to select and prepare

IMG_0171When selecting your veg, look for firm, bright green 豆 with a smooth exterior. When fresh, it should look well hydrated. To prepare your 豆, remove the tips from both ends and break into smaller pieces (a good size reference is the length of your palm). An easy (and fun!) way to prepare the 豆 is by snapping it with your hands; the beans make such a satisfying sound when you do so. Don’t believe us? Hear for yourself:

Cook the 豆 according to your personal preference; crisp, tender, or anything in between! A simple, yet classic way to enjoy these beans is by stir-frying it with garlic and oyster sauce. With that being said, they also hold up well when blanched, pickled or roasted.

Excited to try these homegrown goodies? Come on down to Chinatown, as they may go quickly! To learn more about other local choi in Chinatown, click here.

Choi Identification: Local Gai Choi (本地芥菜)

Don’t be fooled by its frilly leaves because this member of the mustard family packs a punch! With its yellowish-green colour and fleshy, pale stalks, gai choi is yet another locally grown vegetable that you should definitely try. This week, we picked up fresh gai choi at Jia Mei Market and made a delicious meal out of it!

IMG_0149Commonly referred to as “芥菜” (pronounced as gaai choi in Cantonese and jiè cài in Mandarin), 芥菜 is a leafy green vegetable that can also be known as Chinese mustard greens. We were able to pick up 芥菜仔 (aka baby 芥菜) from Jia Mei Market, which has a sweeter taste and more tender texture. Depending on the type of vegetable, keep an eye out for the character “仔” (pronounced as zai in Cantonese and zǎi in Mandarin) or  “心” (pronounced as sum in Cantonese or xin in Mandarin) on market signage if you’re looking for choi that was harvested when it was young.

How to select and prepare
Although the 芥菜仔 we purchased was already packaged in medium sized bags, you can still pick the best choi if you keep the following tips in mind:


  • Pick 芥菜 with freshly cut stems when possible to ensure that you’ll be getting the best of the best! (With that being said, stems with drier cuts can be easily pared away during preparation.)
  • Select 芥菜 with rigid stalks and leaves; this will help your choi maintain its crisp texture even after cooking.
  • At the Markets in Chinatown, you can always ask to bag up veggies according to your needs – smaller or larger amounts!

芥菜 has a slightly bitter flavour that can be alleviated through the use of ginger. Like other choi, 芥菜 can be prepared in a variety of ways: pickled, stir-fried or even braised. The choi-ce is yours!

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

Choi Identification: Local Cousa Squash (本地脆肉瓜)

Cousa whaa?

Cousa Squash! One of the many varieties of summer squash that are in season right now. Known for its light green, spotty exterior, we stumbled upon this unique squash for the first time this summer at Jia Mei Market and Carley Quality Meats.

IMG_9955Referred to as “脆肉瓜” in Chinese (pronounced as ceoi juk gwaa in Cantonese and cuì ròu guā in Mandarin), 脆肉瓜 reminded us a lot of regular green zucchinis. However, as some of the store employees explained to us, 脆肉瓜 is actually much crisper than regular zucchini, hence the reason why it’s literally called “crisp meat melon” in Chinese.

How to select and prepare

Like selecting other types of squash, look for 脆肉瓜 that are firm and smooth to the touch. We gravitated towards 脆肉瓜 that were shiny and heavy for their weight. Summer squash with duller appearances may indicate that they aren’t as fresh as it used to be.

IMG_9952Since summer squash such as 脆肉瓜 are typically harvested when they are still young, their outer rind is still tender and edible. On the other hand, winter squash takes longer to mature, thus leading to a tougher, more rigid exterior. Prepare 脆肉瓜 like you would with any other type of summer squash, – such as by steaming, roasting, or sauteéing it. As a matter of fact, you could even eat it raw by spiralizing it into “pasta” noodles.

Interested in trying out 脆肉瓜? Well, head down to Chinatown soon, as produce available one week may be gone by the next! To learn about other local choi in Chinatown, click here.

Choi Identification: Local Snow Peas (本地雪豆)

Summertime snow peas! An irony of seasonal semantics that we at hua just can’t help but appreciate. Being cool-season plants, it was an interesting but lovely surprise to see them being sold this week in Chinatown at Tin Lee Market, just off of Gore Ave. on E. Georgia St.


Pronounced “雪豆“ (xuě dòu in Mandarin and syūt dáu in Cantonese) or “豌豆” (m: wān dòu; c: wūn dáu) this box of snow peas was labelled “本地 ” (m: běn dì; c: boon dei), meaning they were locally grown just like the other veggies we’ve written about so far. It’s worth keeping an eye out for the phrase 本地 if you’re looking to buy locally in Chinatown too!

How to Select and Prepare

雪豆 are usually harvested when their pods are long and flat and their peas haven’t fully developed. You can tell them apart from sugar snap peas, which typically have fuller peas and thicker pods. When picking which 雪豆 to purchase from your grocer, look for pods that are smooth, not shriveled, and are bright green in color. Fresh 雪豆 should hold very small peas with pods that snap when bent in half.

雪豆’s thin pods are totally munchable, making them a great choice for light snacking in the middle of the day. These pods have strings that can be removed, but if they are young enough you won’t have to do the extra work. They can be eaten whole, cut up into salads, or blistered in stir-fries. They’re amazing at providing a subtle crisp factor and a lovely sweetness to your dishes.

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雪豆 are in season from mid-April until mid-Oct, so swing by Chinatown to try a handful if you’re in the neighborhood!

To learn more about local choi, check out our Seasonal Choi Guide to discover what other vegetables are in season right now.


Choi Identification: Local Kohlrabi (本地大頭菜)

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Ah, Kohlrabi! A dense, crunchy vegetable with a sweet, earthy flavour. A bulbous vegetable resembling a cross between a turnip and the stem of a broccoli, kohlrabi is characterized by its delicate pale green exterior. This time, we spotted locally grown kohlrabi at Carley Quality Meat, a small but lively green grocer in Chinatown. As mentioned in our previous Choi Identification post, “本地” (pronounced as boon dei in Cantonese and běndì in Mandarin) means “local”  in Chinese, and is a key phrase to look for if you’re hoping to get locally grown ingredients!

How to Select and Prepare

Typically referred to as “大頭菜” in Chinese (daaih tàuh choi in Cantonese and dà tóu cài in Mandarin), kohlrabi is a vegetable that can be enjoyed either raw or cooked. Kohlrabi can also be called “靚菜头” (leng choi tàuh in Cantonese or jìng cài tóu in Mandarin) as seen at Carley Quality Meat. Translated literally, 大頭菜 essentially means big headed vegetable in English!

IMG_8562When picking out 大頭菜, look for vegetables that are firm to the touch. Keep an eye out for 大頭菜 that are soft and squishy, – they are likely bruised and may not keep for long.

To prepare 大頭菜, use a paring knife to remove the tough outer layer. This fibrous layer is tough to chew and may not be tasty in your dish! Pickled, steamed, stir-fried, or even eaten raw, 大頭菜 can be used in many ways. To see how we incorporated kohlrabi into one of our favourite Chinese dishes, check out our fried rice recipe video that features this unique vegetable!

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

Choi Identification: Local watercress (本地西洋菜)

With summer just around the corner, it’s hard not to stumble upon a range of fresh, local choi at every green grocer you visit in Chinatown. This past week, local watercress offered at Jiamei Market caught our eye.

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IMG_8377When diving into the greengrocers in Chinatown, “本地” is a key phrase to look for on the signage if you are hoping to purchase local produce. Pronounced as boon dei in Cantonese and běndì in Mandarin, purchasing 本地 (aka local) choi means that you’ll be getting some of Chinatown’s freshest ingredients!

How to Select and Prepare

Typically sold in bunches, watercress aka 西洋菜” (sai yeuhng choi in Cantonese and yáng cài in Mandarin) can be identified by their long stringy stalks and round, earthy green leaves. It is a ingredient that can be used a variety of ways, such as in soups or stir frys. When cooked, 西洋菜 provides a delicate yet refreshing flavour that is perfect for cooling down from the summer heat.

西洋菜 is typically in season in Vancouver from the beginning of May to the end of October, so consider picking it up the next time you’re shopping in Chinatown!

To learn more about local choi, check out our Seasonal Choi Guide to discover what other vegetables are in season right now.