12 Popular Asian Veggies & How To Use Them
If you’ve ever visited Asia, or even just your local Asian supermarket, you’ll know that the variety of vegetables is endless. There are so many unique options, and they are full of all sorts of different flavors and nutrients. Did we mention you can use them in so many different dishes?
But if you’re unfamiliar with some of these vegetables, it can be difficult to know what to do with them. After all, you wouldn’t want to risk corrupting the taste of your stir-fry with a flavor that doesn’t compliment the dish.
So today, we’re going to talk about 12 popular Asian veggies and how to use them. Once you discover their different flavors, you can have a better idea of how to add them to your next meal. Let’s get started.
What Are Some Popular Asian Vegetables?
There are far more Asian vegetables out there than the ones on this list, but these are some of the most popular ones out on the market. This is a great place to start if you’re just getting into Asian cuisine and are looking to learn more.
The Japanese eggplant is a wonderful variety of eggplant. They’re much smaller than the versions you might be used to in America, but they still have a rich, dark purple color.
Its flavor is a bit milder than American eggplants, but that’s not necessarily a downside! Because of its porous texture, Japanese eggplant is great at absorbing seasonings and marinades, making it a great addition to your stir-fry or stew.
People often cook it in big slices straight on a grill with seasoning. Japanese eggplant also goes great with garlic, ginger, or miso.
The taro root is another delicious vegetable on our list. It is somewhat similar to potatoes as it is a starchy root vegetable.
Taro has a light, sweet taste that is comparable to a sweet potato, but what sets it apart is its layer of nuttiness. Some refer to it as “the potato of the tropics.”
The taro root is a classic fall vegetable that is commonly eaten during the moon-viewing tradition in September, but it’s also found in mooncakes during
the Lunar New Year.
The Chinese cabbage is commonly referred to as “napa cabbage.” It has tender leaves, a pleasant sweetness, and the heads are conveniently shaped in cylinders.
Because of its mild, but sweet flavor, napa cabbage pairs well in stir-fry, steamed dumplings, and egg rolls.
You can use napa cabbage to replace regular cabbage in other dishes for a mild flavor and more tender leaf.
Many people often refer to bok choy as a “Chinese cabbage.” But to avoid confusion, we simply call it bok choy. Although it belongs to the cabbage family, bok choy doesn’t form a head above the ground. Instead, its green leaves grow upward out of the base of a white stalk.
Bok choy is unique because you can eat it, no matter how mature it is. Young, small variations are harvested and sold as baby bok choy, and the mature versions are sold as regular bok choy.
Bok choy finds its way in stir-fry dishes and soups, but it can also be sauteed with garlic and soy sauce and served as a delicious side dish.
Lemongrass is a perennial that grows incredibly well in warm environments. It has a magnificent, tall stalk and leaves that look like thick grass.
The white stem is the most common part used in cooking as it adds a nice lemony flavor to whatever dish you’re making, and it’s especially popular in Thailand. Lemongrass is similar to a bay leaf in that you remove it before serving the dish.
Daikon is one of the more popular Asian vegetables on the market. In Japanese, it translates to “great root.” This delicious radish is used all throughout Asian cuisine.
Daikon is far milder than normal, pungent radishes, and it also has a sweetness to it that accompanies its crunchy texture. You can use daikon in stir-fried dishes, soups, or stews, but it is also commonly used to make Korean kimchi and pickled recipes.
The lotus root is another perennial on our list. It is the root of the lotus, which is a beautiful plant that grows in the water and produces vibrant pink or white flowers.
The root has a cylindrical-type shape and is brown, so it somewhat resembles a potato. But once you slice the lotus root, it reveals a beautiful design.
The root is crunchy and has a mild flavor that is perfect for a variety of side dishes. Lotus root soup is a popular dish, but the root can also be used in pretty much any cooking technique and dish.
Mustard greens are another popular leafy green in Asia, especially in Japan. It looks and tastes like arugula, but they don’t have a harsh flavor and carry a bit more sweetness.
You can steam or saute mustard greens, or add them to your favorite salads.
Grown in the tropical regions, the melon’s bitter taste is due to quinine. When eaten in an unripe state, bitter melon lives up to its name.
You can find bitter melon in pinakbet, a traditional Filipino dish that also includes eggplant, tomatoes, string beans, and okra.
To eat, allow it to ripen as the interior gains a reddish hue with a sweeter flavor. You should remove the seeds to reduce the bitterness, but after that, you can use it with a curry or stuff the melon with some meat.
As a popular Asian veggie staple, shiitake mushrooms commonly grow in the forest on oak trees. They grow all over the world, but are especially popular in Asian cuisine.
They have a rich, savory flavor with hints of nuttiness. They are also a great source of vitamin b5, niacin, copper, and riboflavin. Fresh shiitake mushrooms provide a deep umami flavor, and are traditionally used in Chinese medicine.
Typically cultivated from mung beans, bean sprouts can easily be grown at home with the sprouting lid of a mason jar. They’re often found raw in salads, but also cook well and are served commonly with noodle dishes.
However, bean sprouts possess a high risk of foodborne illness due to contamination due to their moist environment, so be sure to only use a fresh bunch.
Many species of bamboo have shoots that are edible. You can get them fresh, but you can also find them dried or canned. They are rich in nutrients and fiber and are often said to have multiple health benefits, making them a common vegetable throughout Asian cuisine.
How Can I Use Asian Vegetables?
Asian vegetables are just like the vegetables used in America. They’re incredibly versatile and can be used in any dish. Let’s look at some common ways to work these Asian veggies into your cooking.
Soups and Stews
Soups and stews are easy ways to incorporate these veggies into your diet. Like lotus root soup, some soups are centered around one particular vegetable, but you can also mix and match various vegetables into a soup with meat and your preferred ingredients.
Asian veggies are great in a soup with noodles. You can make some nice noodle soup with mustard greens, bamboo shoots, and bok choy for an incredibly healthy, heartwarming dish.
You could also make a nice hearty stew with shiitake mushrooms, daikon, lotus root, and taro root. The possibilities are limitless.
Most of these veggies would work great in any stir fry. Napa cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, and daikon would go great in a stir fry with some nice, saucy chicken.
Just mix and match to your taste! Use a stir fry pan to try out some Asian vegetables that you haven’t tried before and combine with your favorite sauce.
One of the best uses of fresh veggies is in pho. Only a few things that can make you feel as good as a healthy, warm bowl of pho. Cook your noodles up with some beat sprouts, and blanch some carrots, mustard greens, and bok choy in the broth for an incredibly healthy and delicious meal.
Poke bowls are another great use of fresh fish and veggies. By mixing warm rice, raw fish, crisp vegetables, and a delicious sauce, you’ll be in for a great meal.
Daikon, canned bamboo shoots, shiitake mushroom, Japanese eggplant, and bok choy would make for an excellent poke bowl that’s packed with unique flavors.
The Bottom Line
Asian vegetables don’t have to be intimidating when you’re at the market. The trick is to stop thinking about them as unfamiliar vegetables and start thinking about them as another tool to enhance your favorite dishes.
Be adventurous and try to work some of these nutritious, delicious veggies into your next meal.
And if you don’t know where to find these delicious veggies, head to Umamicart. We’re an online Asian grocery store that delivers right to your door so you can have these delicious Asian vegetables without the hassle.