Chili Leaves Stir Fry with Garlic 蒜蓉炒辣椒葉
By Ellen L. Published: 2016-06-26
One recent day while strolling through our local wet market we spotted a box of fresh tender looking green vegetables spotted throughout with the most beautiful tiny white flowers. What the heck were these? Never seen anything like these before. We found out that these lovely tender greens were the leaves of chili pepper plant. What, we exclaimed, you can eat chili pepper leaves?! The grumpy old vegetable vendor declared with a harumph and a sideways look that it was so. Well, what to do but to buy a big old bunch of the fresh tender greens and take it home to do a simple and classic Chinese stir fry with garlic. Well it turns out that not only can you eat these tender leaves but Chili Leaves Stir Fry with Garlic 蒜蓉炒辣椒葉 is a simply yummilicious vegetable dish!
I tried to find out from the vendor exactly what kind of chili pepper plant that these tender leaves were from but that turned out quickly to be a dead end. Unless you're buying something, the vegetable vendors at the wet market tend to just kinda grunt at extraneous questions. However, from my own research, I'm pretty sure that these leaves are from the bird eye chili plant. Bird eye chilies are very popular in Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, used to hot up all kinds of dishes. Oh, and these chili leaves, apparently, are used to make the popular Thai Green Curry, giving it that distinctive bright green color without using too many of the chilies (gives it the green but not soul burningly spicy). I definitely want to try that making that soon!
We bought our chili leaves, or 辣椒葉, at a regular vegetable vendor in our local wet market, as mentioned already. However, they were not available everywhere or at all times, you must keep an eye out for them. The white flowers help to locate them. Another place you might check for these is your local Thai grocery store.
These bird eye chili leaves have tiny beautiful white flowers with blue stamens. The flowers can be eaten as well as the tasty leaves. We found the larger stems to be a wee bit tough so we plucked the tender end stems and only stir fried those.
I think the reason this new vegetable is so addictive for us is because, first of all, it is very tasty: slightly sweet, just a hint of bitterness, very "green" tasting if you know what I mean, and second, because it has an underlying layer of warm chili flavor, but without the heat. So interesting! And yummy! And great for me because I love that warm and fruity taste of chili but definitely cannot handle much heat. Also the Chili Leaf stir fries up really, really tender and luscious, kinda like water spinach, also known as morning glory, or 通心菜.
The Chinese always have delicious vegetables to go with dinner or lunch, a part of the well rounded philosophy of Chinese eating that usually consists of a couple of delectable dishes of meat or seafood, one dish of vegetables, a soup and maybe a side dish or two of chinese pickles or fermented tofu or homemade salted egg. For the vegetable dish one of the simplest and most classic ways to prepare really fresh vegetables is to stir fry them with freshly chopped garlic until just cooked, seasoning simply with a pinch of sugar and a shake of salt. Quick and yummy!
The trick with stir frying vegetables with garlic is to flavor your stir fry oil with a few smashed cloves of garlic by adding these to your oil to release aromatics and flavor the oil before you toss in the vegetables. Also, for the chili lovers, you can of course add freshly chopped chilies in to flavor the oil as well, this really is the perfect vegetable dish for that!
If you get a chance, and especially if you like chili flavor, you should definitely try out the truly tasty Chili Leaf!
Chili Leaves Stir Fry with Garlic Recipe 蒜蓉炒辣椒葉
14 oz chili leaves (400g)
3 tbsp oil
5 garlic cloves
1 tbsp fresh chilies (optional)
1/4 tsp sugar
salt to taste
If stems seem too thick to be tender, pluck off the tender shoots and discard thicker stems. Wash chili leaves thoroughly and drain. Take two of the garlic cloves and smash them with the flat side of your cleaver. The rest of the garlic cloves chop roughly. Slice chilies if using and remember to wash hands thoroughly after chopping the chilies.
Heat wok over high heat, when hot add oil, then the two smashed garlic cloves and chilies (if using). Stir fry for a few seconds until aroma of garlic rises. Add in all the vegetables at once, being careful of splattering oil. (Tip: If you add in all vegetables at once or in big bunches there is less likelihood of oil splattering far.) Add in 1/2 tsp salt, the sugar and stir fry until vegetables slightly wilted and coated with oil. Add in the chopped garlic, stir, and cover the wok. Cook over low heat for 1-2 mins or until vegetables completely wilted and garlic soft. Adjust salt to taste. Scoop out to serving plate and serve hot.
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