“Excuse me? Hi, yes, thank you. I know it’s been a while since my last visit, but I don’t see the Chengdu-style fava beans on the menu. Am I looking in the wrong section?”
Spoiler alert: I was not looking in the wrong section. Those supple pods bathed in fiery red oil, kissed by the heat of a blazing wok, were gone. In light of all the new, exciting eateries opening up everyday, few spots warrant repeat visits whenever I return to my hometown on the east coast, but Shu always drew me back in no matter how brief the trip, for another round of those inimitable fava beans. Now, bereft of my essential staple, I scrambled to amend my order. What could possibly take the place of this rare delicacy?
Not one to play it safe, naturally, my eyes drift to the most unusual option I can find. Vegetarian chicken with lettuce. Lettuce? Really? Described merely as an entree containing peppers, wood ear mushrooms, and scallion in a white garlic sauce, I pressed the waiter for details, to no avail. Not even Google translate could help, alternately suggesting that the Chinese characters might be indicating a type of celery, or asparagus, or an unidentified stem. It was perfectly peculiar.
Thus, I accidentally discovered celtuce, the greatest uncelebrated Asian vegetable to take root in Chinatown. The entire thing can be eaten, but is often sold with the leaves separated from its white stems. More versatile than your average tuber, it can be eaten raw, with a crisp texture similar to jicama or water chestnuts, or cooked, be it steamed, boiled, pickled, grilled, roasted, or sauteed, yielding a more tender bite. The flavor is mild but subtly nutty, with a slight woodsy, smoky piquancy, almost reminiscent of broccoli stem or kohlrabi.
Celtuce is almost too versatile, making it hard to narrow down the options for preparation at home. After much deliberation, I landed on a simple dish that is equally adaptable. Keep it cold and you’ve got a refreshing salad. Give it a little saute and you’ll be enjoying a hot stir fry in minutes. Toss with pasta, like al dente bucatini or spaghetti, and it’s a whole new meal.
Simple, fresh, full of crisp seasonal produce, it could become the star of your next potluck picnic. Spring is just around the corner, no matter the weather right now! Introduce your friends to celtuce with this compelling little salad, be it hot or cold.
- 1 Cup (About 5 Ounces) Snap Peas, Thinly Sliced into Matchsticks
- 1 Stalk (About 10 Ounces) Celtuce, Peeled, Halved, and Thinly Sliced
- 2 Cups (About 7 Ounces) Shredded Red Cabbage
- 3 Scallions, Greens Only, Sliced into 1-Inch Lengths
- 3 Tablespoons Avocado Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
- 1 Teaspoon Finely Minced Fresh Ginger
- 1 Clove Garlic, Finely Minced
- 1/4 - 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground White Pepper
- In a large bowl, combine the snap peas, celtuce, cabbage, and scallions. Toss to distribute all the vegetables evenly throughout.
- Separately, whisk together the oil, vinegar, ginger, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Pour over the bowl of vegetables, mixing thoroughly to coat.
- Adjust salt to taste, if needed. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
- If you'd like a hot stir fry, heat the oil first in a large wok over medium heat. Add the scallions, garlic and ginger, cooking for 2 minutes until aromatic. Add the snap peas, celtuce, and red cabbage. Saute for about 5 minutes, until the pea pods are bright green and the cabbage has slightly softened. Season with vinegar, salt, and pepper, adjusting to taste. Serve hot.
- For either version, toss with 3/4 pound cooked pasta for a more complete meal.
Stored in an airtight container in the fridge, the slaw will keep for up to 3 days.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 113Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 197mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 4gSugar: 4gProtein: 3g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.