An Introduction to Chinese Vegetables: Allium, Aromatics and Peppers

chives are read as Jiu Cai (韭菜) in Chinese.  There are both lovers and haters to Chinese chives. It is widely used in Chinese kitchen as a dumpling filling aroma ingredients. I believe you have tried Chinese chive dumplings and potstickers. Additionally, we roast the tender leaves or make a simply stir fry dish like this chive and egg stir fry.Chinese chives |

Blanched Chives or Yellow Chives 韭黄

Blanched  Chinese Chives, 韭黄 or “jiǔ huáng” are chives grown without sunlight. The lack of green pigment produce a very unique yellow color. It is widely used in all Chinese cuisine especially in Cantonese cuisines in famous beef chow fun. It gives the basic flavor of regular chive but sweeter, milder and even tender. But yellow chives are much expensive than regular chives.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is blanched-chives.jpg

Shallot (红葱头)

Shallots are a distinctive variety of onion with smaller bulbs. After cutting, it has almost the same texture with onion but it has finer texture and a milder and sweeter flavor.  Shallot is the key ingredient for lots of famous Taiwanese dishes like Lu Rou Fan, usual producing a very unique flavor after fried with oil.


Ginger (生姜)

Ginger or ginger root is considered as one of the most important aromatic used in Chinese kitchen with garlic and scallion. There are also two types of ginger commonly used in Chinese cooking. The first type is common large ginger and the other kind is small ginger, usually with lots of sands on surface. The later one has stronger taste and is quite popular in Southern cuisine.  


Small ginger with sands

In addition to old ginger root, we harvest very tender fresh young gingers too. Those fresh baby ginger is mainly used for pickles or stir fries.

fresh baby ginger|

Chinese Parsley 香菜

Chinese parsley (very similar to another type coriander and also interchangeable ) is usually used as an herb, popular in soups, salad and dips. There are two varieties in China. Sometimes the stems are added in stir fry dishes. They are generally sold in Asian market along with other herbs such as green onion.  The most favorite way of using Chinese parsley is to top the chopped one on noodles.

Chinese coriander|

Chinese Toon (香椿)

Chinese toon (toona sinensis) is harvested from the young leaves of the Chinese Mohagany tree in Spring time. It is available only in several weeks when the tree is just sprouting and the leaves are extremely younger and tender.  Chinese Toon are usually used as a herb and fry with eggs.

Chinese toon|

Green Chili Peppers 青椒

In addition to bell peppers, Chinese people love chili peppers more. The most regular green peppers are middle in hot level and called as “青椒” (in most cases are shishito peppers)  in Chinese. In order to distinguish, bell peppers are called “甜椒”. Green chili peppers can be used as a spice in stir fries or sautéed directly. Sometimes we cut them into small dices and fry with scrambled eggs.

Regular chili green pepper|

Long shishito peppers

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Fat green peppers

Long chili peppers (线椒)

Those long peppers are quite thin and long, usually quite spicy. It is mostly used as spice instead vegetables. We chop it or fry it and use in dipping sauces. If it is added in stir-fries, usually only a small amount is used due to the hotness.  There are also red long chili peppers. In order to distinguish from regular green chili peppers, those long peppers are called “线椒”. In Sichuan area, long chili peppers are usually “二荆条” both green and red ones are available in Summer and Autumn. In other seasons, long chili peppers usually refers to “杭椒”, Hangzhou long peppers. 

Long chili green pepper|

Green long peppers

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red Sichuan long peppers

Small chili pepper (小辣椒)

Those small chili peppers are the hottest among those common used types. In China, we have facing the haven (朝天椒) or Thai peppers (泰国小辣椒). They are usually used in salad. In order to make them becomes milder, people in China love to use the method of fermenting either in a spicy paste or pickled peppers.

Facing heaven |

small chili peppers|

Wild Peppers (野山椒)

Wild peppers are usually green in color, sometimes colorful. It has the highest hot level and thus not used directly in cooking. In most cases, they are fermented for a while to milder the hotness.

Chinese wild peppers |

At last, Elaine hopes that this post can be helpful for choosing your aromatics for Chinese cooking. If you want to know some more, please send me a comment.


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