Chai sim (choy sum/yu chai/oilseed rape) is a very popular vegetable among the Chinese. The name chai sim or choy sum literally means “vegetable heart”. Its leaves and stems are tender and juicy. If allowed to mature, yellow flowers will appear and the plant becomes sweeter and more succulent. Always select small tender stalks. The flowers should be tight and compact or they would have pass their prime. If they are small enough, the entire stalk can be kept whole. Chai sim are delicious steamed, stir fried, and cooked in soup.
Chai tao (long/yardlong beans) have crisp and tender pods. They are usually cut into short sections for cooking in stir fries and curries. Long beans are best eaten when they are young and slender.
Chan choy (Malabar spinach) is a fast growing, soft stemmed vine with succulent leaves. When cooked they have a very smooth and slightly slimy texture. They are most often used in stir fries and soup.
Chan choy comes in 2 varieties – purple stem and green stem. The taste and texture of both varieties are very similar to each other.
Gai choy (tua chai/mustard greens) is a species of the mustard plant, often used in pickling. They have broad succulent stems with a slightly peppery taste. When used in stir fries, gai choy benefits from a quick scalding to remove the slightly bitter taste. Gai choy can withstand quite a bit of boiling without disintegrating. For this reason, it is also used in soups and braised dishes.
Gai lan (Chinese broccoli) is another popular Chinese vegetable with blue-green leaves prized for its thick tender stems and flower buds. Gai Lan is often steamed or lightly boiled and dressed lightly with soy sauce and garlic oil. They are also delicious stir fried with ginger and mushrooms.
Kacang botol (winged/four-angled beans) have pods with four winged frilly edges running lengthwise. They are mildly sweet with a crunchy texture. Kacang botol are commonly stir fried and eaten raw in ulams (salads).
Kangkung (eng chai / water spinach/water convolvulus) is a semi aquatic, tropical plant grown as a vegetable. It is popularly used in stir fries or scalded and served with noodles.
Kio or Chinese eggplant (brinjal/aubergine) are long and slender. They have thinner skins and a more delicate flavor. Kio can be steamed, fried, and used in curries.
Ladies’ finger (okra/bendi) are green edible pods with a slimy sap. In Malaysia, ladies’ fingeres are most often used in curries. They are also steamed and dressed in a spicy sauce or stir fried with chilies.
Pek chai (pak choy/bok choy) literally means “white vegetable” in reference the the thick white stalks. The leaves are crinkly and a dark green in color. Pek chai is easily available here in the US but is not as popular in Malaysia. They are delicious stir fried with ginger and deep fried tofu.
Sai yong choy (watercress) is a rapidly growing semi-aquatic plant with hollow stems and compact leaves. They are botanically related to the mustard and radish, hence its peppery taste. Sai yong choy is widely believed to be beneficial for the lungs and is most often used in soups as a remedy for colds and coughs. It is also used in stir fries.
Wong ah pak (Napa cabbgae/Chinese cabbage) is a type of Chinese cabbage widely used in East Asian cuisine. It is a very versatile vegetable and can be stir fried, pickled, or cooked in soups.
Yam (sweet potato) leaves are often sold in bunches. They are very tender and delicious in stir fries.