Choy Sum Salad
In some Asian Cultures the first name of a person is not so important as identifying them on how they relate in the context of the group. For example, to some Korean’s in my community I am called ‘Mother of Danielle’ or ‘Mother of Alex’ or ‘Mother of Danielle and Alex.’
To my neighbor’s across the street who are from China, I am ‘Jason’s Grandmom.’ The Grandparents in that household are respectively titled, “Richard’s Grandmother and Richard’s Grandfather.”
Any time a question or statement might be put forth by Richard, one of Jason’s best buddies, always begins with the title: “Jason’s Grandmom.” “Jason’s Grandmom,” can Jason come to dinner at my house? “Jason’s Grandmom,” Can Jason go swimming with my family?”
Addressing others in the community- centric context in some ways might be similar to calling a person Mr. or Mrs., Miss, or Ms., inferring a more formal relationship.
But in fact, many close relationships and strong friendships are formed where first names aren’t necessarily the most important consideration, and in other ways provide a means of clarity identifying who the person is.
For some countries there is a distinct purpose of identifying people by their place or position in the family within their last name, elder sister, little brother.
If a substantial population in this country held the last name ‘Smith’ then it might make sense to identify the members of differing families or who they are within their own clan, mother of, daughter of, grandmother of.
But this is a system of its own, and so my point today, though involving names or titles, rather than people ties into Asian vegetables and fruits, in this case, the vegetable which at the Asian market was actually named OO Choy Sum, used for preparing today’s Choy Sum Salad.
Depending on the type of international flavor of market one goes to, it is not uncommon to see different names for the same produce. The produce one chooses is what the buyer is looking for and there is no big ‘to-do’ disturbance on what it is actually named on the sign. No matter. Yes, no matter.
The sign says OO Choy Sum. It has green leaves that are sold separately too. This is where the community context name might also be helpful, like OO Choy Sum is the sister of Taiwan Lettuce. But there are too many ‘Smith’ families in this bunch with the one and same vegetable called by its first name so you might also find the very same green leaves under other nicknames as Celery Lettuce, Yu Choy, or even AA Chop Xin. Same vegetable, one family.
Today’s OO Choy Sum also has what might appear as a lot of ‘Smith’ families and for those wanting to learn what to purchase when trying new Asian dishes, the name: identical twin of, would be immensely helpful to some for OO Choy Sum, also called Choy Sum, AA Choy Sum, AA Choy, AA Choi Sum, A-Choy Sum, A- Choi Sum, Celtuce, possibly Wosun, these all the same.
Best yet in this scenario, is to simply look for the stalk similar to the photo. Really, you don’t need to be on a first name basis with the stalk to prepare and enjoy its flavor.
OO Choy Sum, also commonly named AA, tastes a bit like celery, and a bit like cucumber. It is not as crunchy as celery nor does it maintain quite the softness as cucumber. It has a tinge of bitter, but then if fresh, not too much at all. Once you peel off the outer root, easily performed with a kitchen peeler, just give a second look all around being sure that no spots of the thicker greenish outer coating remain.
Using a Chef’s knife, from the bottom to the top, slice OO on an angle as if you would carve a piece of meat against the grain, for if you do not, you’ll have a cut vegetable that looks like the imprint of a railroad track running through it. See the above photo for the correct angle of slicing. Once all of your OO is sliced on the angle, then, you slice it again into very fine strips, sort of like a julienne, a bit thinner.
Once you’ve prepped the OO then you can move ahead with ingredients that provide more common name clarity, well, there are also some varying names for red hot red peppers, just buy a long hot red pepper for slicing, no matter what nationality it identifies itself by, and then you’ve got your fish sauce, fresh limes for juicing, sugar, warm water- not photographed- and with no alternative name needing clarification.
From left to right, fresh cilantro, Thai basil (as opposed to the commonly grown and more delicate leafed garden herb frequently called Italian basil,) and, fresh mint.
Peanuts. Not Planter’s Cocktail variety you purchase in a can, these may be found, skins on, at any international or Asian market.
And finally we have Rice Stick Noodles, not to be confused with plain rice noodle… or skinny rice noodle vermicelli, oh golly gee, plain old linguine will do the job if you prefer for starters, otherwise grab a bag of ‘rice stick’ noodles and cook in boiling water to el dente, which may be up to a few minutes longer than the package directions before rinsing well of all the starch.
OO Choy Sum Salad is easy enough to put together and rather tasty as a warm weather supper, particularly if you enjoy the bursting flavors of sweet and tart combined with lots of colorful, fresh herbs, the key is in the shopping, identifying the stalk, as I’ve shared, and just remember the actual name isn’t always the most important consideration.
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1- 1 1/4 pound shrimp, shelled, de-veined
- 3 scallions, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 Choy Sum Stalks, peeled, sliced on the diagonal, cut into strips a bit thinner than julienne
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 bag rice stick noodles, or one pound linguine
- 1/4 cup unsalted, shelled peanuts, chopped
- 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped, plus some extra sprigs for garnish
- 1 handful fresh Thai Basil, cut into very thin strips
- 1 handful fresh mint, chopped
- Preparing the Sauce
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1/2 cup fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 long hot red pepper, sliced thinly
- couple pinches cracked black pepper
- Heat a large sized saute pan on medium high heat, pour in the oil then swirl to cover the bottom of the pan
- Drop in the shrimp, shake pan and cook until pink and just cooked through, a few minutes or longer, remove shrimp from the pan and transfer to a cutting board to cool, then chop into small pieces
- Add scallions to the saute pan and cook on very low heat for two minutes, add in the garlic, stir, cook another two minutes, transfer to a bowl with the sliced Choy Sum, stir throughout
- Add ground pork to the pan and cook on low heat until just done
- While pork is cooking, boil noodles in salted boiling water until el dente, drain, rinse very well of starch if using rice noodles rather than linguine Mix together the sauce ingredients and stir until sugar is completely dissolved
- Return shrimp along with the scallion, Choy Sum mixture back to the saute pan stir through with the cooked pork, and warm through another couple minutes for flavors to absorb together
- Toss cooked pasta with the sauce before folding through with the pork and shrimp mixture, stir through the fresh chopped herbs
- Top salad with chopped peanuts, garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs and basil strips