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Recipe: Spicy taro and greens

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Editor's note: Roz Weitzman has been working in China for seven years as an international school principal. An avid cook, Roz is in the process of epublishing a cookbook called "Secrets of Chinese Comfort Food – Simple Everyday Cooking."

Since moving to Kunming she has begun to explore the cooking traditions of Yunnan. GoKunming will be posting her Yunnan-inspired recipes every other week for the remainder of 2012. More of Roz's recipes can be viewed on her blog (requires proxy) and she can be reached at roz[at]candismail[dot]com[dot]cn. Bon appétit.

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting a restaurant in my neighborhood that specializes in cuisine from Pu'er. I had several lovely dishes and the taro — or yutou (芋头) — recipe below was one of my favorites. It incorporates haicaihua (海菜花), a freshwater green originally from Tibet that grows in high-elevation lakes. This should not be confused with haicai (海菜), or seaweed.

As far as the spice in this dish goes, the sky is the limit. I usually do not eat much spice but am rapidly learning to appreciate heat. I'm also developing a taste for Sichuan peppercorns — those numbing little devils that come in all sorts of dishes here in Yunnan.

I have learned that if peppercorns are added in small quantities they lend a lovely flavor without completely deadening your mouth. You can modify the recipe to fit whatever quantity you desire.


5 fresh taro
1 teaspoon salt
6 grains Sichuan peppercorns
2 dried red chilis
3 cups chopped haicaihua
Half a wok of water


Peel the taro and then wash them well. Cut each one into eight pieces. Smaller chunks will cook faster. Wash the haicaihua and cut into two inch lengths.

Bring half a wok of water to a boil over high heat. Add the taro slices, salt and peppercorns. Return to boil. Cook on medium high heat until tender — about 15 minutes. Brake the chilis into pieces with your fingers and add to the boiling mixture.

Add greens to the taro and continue to cook together in the water until tender but still bright green – approximately five minutes more. Serve the dish with the cooked-down liquid, which will have thickened and gained a savory flavor while boiling.


Images: Roz Weitzman

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I see very few taro recipes, so this looks mouth watering.

I would like to see more recipes like this.
Simple recipe for a common local food.

There are many fresh foods that I have not seen before and am not sure what to do with them. I am sure I am not alone.

There are also some dishes that are more palatable for foreigners, than others.

Perhaps GoK could open up to submissions of simple recipes from other writers.

Thanks for the lovely comments, AlexKMG and tigertiger. The next recipe to be posted, Steamed Chicken with Chilli Sauce, is amazing. Let me know what you think. It is extremely local and delicious!

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