Thursday, August 19, 2010

Shepherd's Purse 荠菜 - popular filling ingredient for wonton dumplings in Shanghai

Another merchant/food supplier (with their product stocked at Ranch 99) almost got me confused with spinach again. Serious, they labeled Chinese Spinach on the package but when my friend made her wontons/dumplings with it - no way it tasted like spinach. I tried making wonton/dumpling with spinach before and no way it tasted the same and no way it tasted better. Excuse me, they are not Chinese Spinach or even spinach of any kind.

According to my friend, there are NOT MANY wontons/dumplings eateries which make wontons/dumplings with this herb or vegetable. Only when I was able to search (and research) for the name did I know that this vegetable is "...commonly used as food in Shanghai and the surrounding Jiangnan region, where they are stir-fried with rice cakes and other ingredients or as part of the filling in wontons..." (from Wiki).

Capsella Bursa-Pastoris too profound. Shepherd's Purse too cute
It remains true that I have made and tasted a variety of wonton/dumplings but none tasted better than 荠菜云吞 (QiCai Wonton). To me, these wontons taste special, deliciously special, due to the distinct aroma of the herb. Capsella bursa-pastoris sounds too profound and scientific to name a everyday wonton/dumpling and Shepherd's Purse sounds too cute. So unless you go to a Chinese website and search more information using "荠菜" or continue Googling for "Shepherd's Purse wonton" and see how lucky you get. Maybe that is why an easy way out to call it Spinach?

You can see how the fresh herbs look like here. And it also rare to find them, trust me. But lucky that some Ranch 99 stores in California carry the frozen version. Check out the frozen sections. They are usually together with frozen peas and corn kernels.

This dim-looking herb (that not many know of at least in parts of the world I am living, staying, visiting), has medicinal and healing properties. No wonder my friend told me wontons made with this vegetable are superbly good. Not only they taste utterly delicious, they pack punch of nutrients too.

With the leftover filling we had for wonton-making, we made soup. And of course, the distinct flavor of Sheperd's Purse continue to shine and make a very naturally tasty tofu soup.

Some of you who have done frequent travel to China (Jiangsu/Jiangnan region) may know this herb-vegetable better because you find famous traditional snacks like "Shepherd's Purse Herb" Bao or "Capsella Bursa Pastoris" Bao or Qi Cai Bao (荠菜包) - bao filling made with finely minced herb and firm tofu.^o^

Hope this herb-vegetable find its way to Marija at Palachinka, host for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging. It is as new to me as new to you.

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