Crystalline Iceplant Salad with Soy Sesame Dressing 冷拌水晶冰菜
By Ellen L.Published: 2015-03-14
After stuffing ourselves on festival foods merrily all through the Chinese New Year celebrations, we really felt like taking a breather and eating light for a while. So we've been oohing and aahing our way through platefuls of our latest discovery, a plant/vegetable that, delightfully, looks as though it is covered with ice! Its dewy sparkles caught my eye one day at the local wet market and I immediately asked about it. The vegetable vendor enthusiastically vouched for this strange new vegetable, telling me that it was absolute perfection when eaten as a cold dish. She even suggested a recipe! And indeed she was right, this unusual vegetable made for a fabulous Crystalline Iceplant Salad with Soy Sesame Dressing 冷拌水晶冰菜, an easy to make, light, chinese style cold dish. Not only was this dish yummilicious, we have gotten seriously addicted to this icy plant!
|Super close up of the surface of the Crystalline Iceplant|
This fascinating little veg is originally from Africa. In the photo above you can see up close to the surface of the iceplant where it looks like a multitude of dewy drops of water are collected. Amazingly, when you touch the iceplant these dewy drops are hard, well, like ice. And therefore the name I guess.
Update: To clarify, this edible iceplant's proper name is Mesembryanthemum Crystallinum and it has the distinctive "ice" like bladder cells on its stems. There is another plant, also known as iceplant or highway ice plant, that is known as an invasive species in parts of the world, with the proper name of Carpobrotus Edulis and that does not have the distinctive bladder cells.
The surprising thing about the iceplant is the taste and the texture. At first bite it tasted slightly salty, slightly sweet. The icy surface of the stems is slightly stiff, rubbery to the touch but once you bite into it the inside is crunchy and delightfully succulent. The leaves are my favorite bit, it's just like eating luscious, creamy green velvet. The taste is mild and with a touch of the sweet and vinegary dressing it grows and grows on you. But the winning combination is the taste and the texture together. Really surprisingly delightful! (My 老公 is obsessed with this veg and constantly asks for it!)
A thought just floated into my mind as I was writing this...have you read Life of Pi? The story of the boy and the tiger lost on a boat in the ocean and at the last minute they are saved by a mysterious floating island. The boy, almost starved to death, crawls onto the green island and discovers, to his delight, that the green plant matter that makes up the green island is edible and yummy. So he eats and eats of this succulent plant. Well, eating iceplant reminds me exactly of that bit of the story!
We bought the crystalline iceplant at our local Hong Kong wet market, but only one market stall had it as far as I know. I've not seen it elsewhere. But I feel that this little veg will catch on like wildfire with food lovers so keep one eye out for these lovelies. If you do find it please try, try, try! It's so easy to prepare and really soooo yummilicious!
P.S. Please let us know where you've discovered it so that others can share the experience!
Crystalline Iceplant Salad with Soy Sesame Dressing Recipe 冷拌水晶冰菜
300 g crystalline iceplant (1/2 lb)
1/2 garlic clove
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds (optional)
Wash the iceplant and spin dry with vegetable spinner . If the leaves are large, gently break up to edible sizes.
Use the flat of your large chinese cleaver and flatten the garlic. Or just mince garlic as finely as possible. Mix garlic with soy, vinegar, sugar, oil and sesame oil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Mix in sesame seeds if using. Toss the ice plant leaves with the dressing so lightly coated. Place onto your serving plate and serve immediately!
Tip: If you end up with extra iceplant that you haven't used (i.e. is completely dry) you can keep it for the next day. Just leave in bag or bowl, don't cover and keep in a dark cool area. If kept dry and cool, the iceplant should keep for another day or two.
More Delightful Chinese Cold Dishes at The Hong Kong Cookery:
Boiled Edamame 毛豆
Marinated Kelp - Manna from the Seas