My original thought was not to have a separate vegetable dish this weekend. However while I was in Lion Market I saw garlic stem! I had to have it.
During our year and a half in Chengdu, Sichuan, I ate a lot of Chinese food (strange that). While twice-cooked pork was my favorite dish, garlic stem was a close second. I would order it or cook it up every chance I got. Garlic stem has a very short season so it was rarely available, even in China.
Most vegetables in the free markets went for 20-50 fen per jin, but 1.1 pounds of garlic stem would cost you four yuan per jin.* This was very pricey vegetable indeed for customers making about 50 yuan a week. What made garlic stem so pricy was that you had to let the plant go to seed and start to send up its flower stalk. This meant that the garlic bulb at the base, the part we usually eat, would go bad and become unusable.
* [For the conversion think pennies to the pound and dollars per week (not exact, but close enough). At the time we were in China, the government kept very tight control of the economy, so there were no price fluctuations (officially). The yuan was pegged to the dollar, so the conversion was always 7 yuan to the dollar. One fen was 1/100 of a yuan or 0.7 of a U.S. cent. This may not seem like much to an American, but both people’s incomes and the prices of things were fixed. If you stayed inside the system it was stable, worked pretty well and you could buy enough to eat. The exception was the “Free Markets, farmers who came to sell their vegetables at what the marker would bear—that was what made them free.]
When I got back to America garlic stem was almost impossible to find. American garlic growers do not think that Americans will buy it and their process is tied up in producing only the garlic bulbs. In the 24 years that we have been back. I have only found it in Asian markets only about 8 times. If I see it in a store or farmer’s market I’m going to buy it, because it probably won’t be there tomorrow.
For this dish, I had some Chinese celery left over from my other dish and I decided to pair these two vegetables with some bamboo shoot in a spicy stir fry. I am using a pealed and boiled bamboo for this dish. In an Asian market, you will usually find these in a tub of water in the vegetable isle or the deli refrigerator. These are much more tender and easier to eat than fresh bamboo, which can be tough and crunchy.
Note: Again I am adapting this recipe to be as Ketogenic as I can for my son-in-law.
Karl’s Spicy Garlic Stem, Chinese Celery and Bamboo Stir-fry
1 lb. Chinese garlic stem
1 cup Chinese celery½ cup bamboo shoot
½ cup red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
3-4 green onions
1 Tbs. spicy bean sauce
1 tsp. chili garlic sauce
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp. ginger, minced
1 Tbs. canola oil
1. Rinse the garlic stem and cut off the flower heads and the bottom 1/8 inch off of each stem and chop it into 2 inch pieces.
2. Rinse Chinese celery and chop into 2 inch pieces.
3. Slice the bamboo, red pepper and garlic and set them in piles on a large plate.
4. Trim the green onions and chop them into fine pieces.
5. Measure the sauce ingredients and put them in a small cup and set it aside.
6. Put the oil into a skillet or wok and bring it up to a high temperature. Add the garlic stem and celery. Stir fry the vegetables about every 30 seconds for two minutes. Do not stir constantly.
7. Add the bamboo pile to the pan and continue stir-frying for two minutes.
8. Add the red pepper, green onions, and garlic. Continue stir-frying for one minute.
9. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pan and pour the sauce mixture into the open space. Mix the sauce together for about ten seconds and then toss the vegetables to coat them with the sauce.
10. Remove to a bowl and serve immediately.