I promised the vegetarians a CNY post and for the omnivores, this crisp and light dish contrasts nicely with the richness of the beef cheeks. I’m always on the look out for Chinese dishes that have the lightness I appreciate in Vietnamese food, and researching CNY, I came upon Jen from Use Real Butter‘s recipe for rui tsai, a ten lucky ingredient salad her mother made her every year. The dish looked wonderful and it percolated in my mind when I was shopping at the Asian markets this week. I didn’t want to replicate the dish exactly, and in any case, I didn’t have several of the ingredients. But the idea of a lightly cooked salad, featuring both fresh and pickled vegetables stuck with me, as did the idea of featuring ginger in a starring role. If you simply count each of my eight ingredients as a vegetable, the salad will seem plain, but when you consider that one of these ‘vegetables’ is a good half cup of fresh ginger, then you can see the sparky flavours lurking in its deceptively plain appearance. The combination of ginger with crunchy beansprouts, bitter mustard greens, and umami mushrooms gives the dish a lovely balance of flavour, even without much in the way of  added dressing.

Eight is, of course, a lucky number in China, and each of the ingredients in this dish has special significance for New Year. For example, bean sprouts represent a positive start to the year, black fungus signifies longevity, and mixed vegetables in general suggest harmony in the home. After the tumultous Year of the Tiger, harmony seems like a good thing to aspire to in the calmer Year of the Rabbit…

Eight rabbity vegetables

  • 1 cup black fungus mushrooms, soaked
  • 1 cup Chinese black mushrooms, soaked
  • 1/2 cup pickled mustard greens
  • 1 cup beansprouts
  • 1/2 cup ginger
  • 1/2 cup banana flowers, soaked
  • 1 cup bamboo shoots
  • 1 cup cabbage
  • oil for cooking
  • salt

First soak all of the dried ingredients in bowls of warm water. Watch out for the black fungus mushrooms – firstly, they plump up quite a bit so you don’t need too many to make a cup, and secondly they will need careful washing once rehydrated.

While you wait for the dried vegetables to hydrate, prep the fresh ingredients. The ginger, cabbage, bamboo shoots and ginger need to be julienned, with the ginger cut especially finely. Rinse the pickled mustard greens and wash and pick through the beansprouts. Once the dried veggies are soft, squeeze them out and chop them finely too. Keep everything in separate piles for cooking.

Heat a wok or large frying pan to medium and add a small glug of oil. Now fry the vegetables one at a time, sprinkling a pinch of salt over each one. You will want to replenish the oil now and again. Cook the mushrooms for two minutes or until golden patches appear. The others can be cooked quite briefly and the beansprouts not at all if you like them crunchy. As you finish each ingredient, add it into a serving bowl. Once all are cooked, mix the salad well and taste for salt.

That’s really it. Happy CNY!