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Table of Contents
VEGETABLES AND FRUITS
In this section, there will be information on fruits and vegetables (mainly Asian), that I use in my cooking.
A Pomelo is a large citrus fruit that tastes like a grapefruit but is slightly less juicy, tangy, and has less of a bitter aftertaste. Pomelos are usually eaten as-is but can also be fantastic in salads, drinks, and desserts. It is often eaten and enjoyed in Asian cultures, especially during Chinese New Year & Mid-Autumn Festivals.
Pomelos can be tricky to peel because of their thick skin. There are two layers of peeling when it comes to peeling a pomelo. You first have to peel off the outer skin (the rind) and once the skin has been peeled you have to peel the tough skin that's wrapped around the pulp - the pulp is the only thing eaten in a pomelo. Pomelos are slightly less juicy than a grapefruit but much easier to eat and make great bite-sized snacks on the go.
You don't eat the skins of a pomelo at all since it is thick and tough. You only eat the pulp, which is very easy to peel out of the skin.
When it comes to food, Asians generally don't like to waste anything, so there are Chinese recipes out there to eat the pith of the pomelo skin which is the spongy part of the skin. The pith is usually peeled or cut off the rind and soaked overnight and boiled to remove some of the bitterness in preparation for it to be braised. It doesn't have much flavor, it's more of a texture thing. It absorbs the flavor of the braising liquid. The texture is exactly what you would think it would be like - spongy!
You can find my pomelos at the Asian grocery stores but they are more commonly available during big events such as Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) and Mid Autumn Moon Festivals, although I occasionally will find them at my local grocery stores from time to time as well. To pick the juiciest pomelos, pick them up and feel how heavy they are. They should feel heavy for their size and be firm to the touch. The heavier it is, the juicier it is. If it feels very light, it most likely will be dry.
I have not figured out how to pick out the sweet ones. It's usually a hit or miss for me when it comes to picking out the sweet ones - sometimes I get sweet, sometimes I get tangy. If you have a way to pick out sweet pomelos, give me a shout! I would love to learn how!
If your pomelo has not been peeled, you can store them at room temperature or in the fridge. Once a pomelo has been peeled, keep the segments together and only remove the wedges you want to eat. This will prevent it from drying out. Store it in the fridge in a well-sealed container for up to a week.
Lychees are small, sweet, and juicy fruits that have a floral flavor to them. They originate from China and are mainly enjoyed as is but have been gaining worldwide popularity & has been popping up as an ingredient in a lot of Asian fusion recipes as well. They are very juicy fruits, and the flesh of the fruit old a lot of water in it, almost like a skinless grape. You can eat them as is, as a snack or dessert but now that lychees, use them in cocktails, or add them into desserts.
Before you can use the fruit, you have to peel the skin off the skin first. Peeled lychee will be white and slippery to the touch. The flesh of the fruit is the part of the fruit that is used and the small dark brown seed in the middle is removed and discarded.
Do not eat unripe lychees, they contain toxins that can make you very sick. Unripe lychee skins are green in color. It is also not a good idea to eat a lot of lychees in one sitting as well, as it is known to give you stomach aches as well.
You can usually find fresh lychee at an Asian grocery store. Fresh lychees are only in season in June and July though so get them fresh while you can! There is no good lychee substitute. Since lychees are only in season for a few months in the summer, you can substitute it with canned lychee which you can find at an Asian grocery store or online.
To pick sweet and ripe lychees, find the ones that are bright red or pink in color. When you give them a gentle squeeze, it should feel firm and springy. Avoid mushy or very soft lychees, chances are it is either overly ripe (and very sweet) or rotten. Lychees that are not springy or have sunken in skins usually mean they are dried out.
These little fruits should be stored in the fridge and last about a week. When storing them in the fridge, keep them in a plastic bag with holes in it, to prevent them from drying out too quickly.
Taro is a starchy root vegetable that comes from a tropical plant that is similar to a potato - but it can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. It is used worldwide in many different cuisines and is a very versatile ingredient that can be steamed, deep-fried, boiled or grilled. It is also not just limited to savory dishes only and is very commonly used in sweet dishes in Asia as well!
Taro must ALWAYS be cooked all the way through before eating it. In its raw form, it contains calcium oxalate which can cause kidney stones or gout - cooking it removes it.
Taro contains high amounts of Oxalic Acid, which can irritate and cause your skin to be itchy if you have sensitive skin. When you are working with it, it can also get unwieldy so I like to wrap a towel or dish rag around the taro where I need to hold it before I start peeling it or cutting it. If it's easier, you can also use gloves. I have read tips to use oil on your skin as a barrier, but I personally don't recommend it - using this method makes the taro very slippery and makes it harder to work it, and may cause cutting accidents, so please don't do this.
Taro is most commonly found in Asian and Indian grocery stores and sometimes at specialty grocery stores as well. When you are picking out taro, make sure it is free of mold and cracks. It should be firm and not show signs of shriveling or wrinkling. Cracking and shriveled up taro is an indicator that it may be drying out. There is no true substitution to taro. A potato comes close but taro has a nuttier flavor and creamier texture.
Store your taro in a dry cool dark place. Sometimes I keep it out on the counter in a very well-ventilated basket, but I will use it within 2 days if I do. Never rest it on any kind of plastic, it will cause moisture and form mold. If you keep it in the fridge, make sure it is well ventilated, else it will form moisture, which will then form mold. It is usually easier to just use it as soon as possible when you bring it home from the store.
Chinese eggplant is a bright purple, tubular-shaped fruit (yes, fruit!) that is most commonly in stir-fries, deep-fried, oven-roasted, or in curries. Its spongy flesh absorbs all the flavors of the sauces and provides a slight sweetness and creaminess to any dish it is used in and can also be used in braised dishes as well.
One of the fantastic things about Chinese eggplants is, you don't need to salt them to remove the bitterness as you do with normal Italian eggplants. Chinese eggplants don't have a bitterness to them so you can use them as-is. That being said, it is good practice to soak it in salted water before you plan to stir-frying it so that it doesn't act like a dry sponge and absorb all cooking oil.
You can occasionally find these at local grocery stores and gourmet specialty stores but you can almost always find them at Asian supermarkets. When you are picking them out at the grocery store, find firm ones with no brown blemishes or dents. The eggplant should have smooth skin and be wrinkle-free and have a rich purple color. You can also use Indian eggplant as a substitution for it if you cannot find it in the store - they are smaller in size (egg-shaped) but have the same characteristics, and flavors as an Asian eggplant.
You can store eggplant at room temperature away from the sun. However, if you live in a very hot area and your kitchen is usually on the hot side then store the eggplant in the fridge.
Korean radish is a root vegetable that is very mild in flavor with a dense crunchy texture and mainly used in Korean dishes to make salads, pickles, stews, slaws, and kimchi. Not be confused with its cousin the daikon radish which has a stronger, pungent, and sometimes bitter flavor. Korean radishes can be used in a variety of broths as well and provide a sweet and mild flavor to them. They are also fantastically pickled as well because there is no bitter flavor to them and they have a mildly sweet flavor to them with a nice crunchy texture!
You can find these at Korean supermarkets only and when you are picking them out, make sure they are smooth-skinned and not bruised. They should have a very firm texture, try to stay away from soft Korean radishes. Look for the ones that have a bit of green at the top.
Korean radishes should be stored in the crisper drawer either wrapped in newspaper or covered in a bag with lots of holes in it to prevent it from drying out and getting soft. Make sure it is well ventilated as well because too much moisture can cause it to mold.
Daikon radish is a large root vegetable that is very commonly used in Asian cuisines and can be enjoyed both raw and cooked. You can use these in broths, unique sauces, salads, stews, or as a condiment.
An interesting way to use this raw would be to grate it and put a small amount of it into soy sauce to transform plain soy sauce into a flavourful and unique dipping sauce. Pickling is also another method that is commonly used to give salads and sandwiches, like Banh Mi, a fantastic boost in flavor. They are made as fridge pickles with no canning process involved. They do sometimes have a bitter flavor to it, so you should always salt the turnip ahead of time to remove the bitter flavor out before using it in pickling.
Cooking daikon radishes, bring out their sweeter flavors which is why they are fantastic in braises and stews - they are also fantastic at flavoring brothy soups.
Daikon radish is very commonly used during Chinese New Year to make turnip cake which is a dish you can also find at dim sum and at lunar new year festivals. There are a few types of Asian radishes and this one should not be confused with the Korean radish which is used for making kimchi.
You can typically find these at Asian supermarkets but they have been growing in popularity and they have also been spotted at local grocery stores as well. When picking them out at the grocery store, make sure they are smooth-skinned with no cracks and that they have creamy white color, and most importantly firm. Give it a squeeze, it should feel like an apple. If it is soft and slightly bendy, it is not fresh.
Raw and leftover daikon radishes smell faintly like farts, like cabbage but stronger! The smell may be off-putting to some but rest assured it's delicious!
They should be stored in the fridge in the crisper drawer in plastic bags that have holes in them for good ventilation. If the plastic bag doesn't have holes, make some - it needs to breathe a bit as well as maintain a good amount of humidity within the bag to keep it from molding as well as drying out.