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Vegetables in China [Audios and PDF]

To enjoy a balanced diet, you cannot skip the daily portion of vegetables 蔬菜 shū cài. Vegetables can provide a variety of water-soluble vitamins needed by the human body to maintain the normal functioning of organs and the immune system. At the same time, vegetables can also provide the human body with mineral elements, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These substances are helpful to improve cell metabolism and improve physical fitness. The rich dietary fiber in vegetables can also improve human intestinal function and the proliferation of intestinal probiotics. Vegetables, especially dark vegetables, also have an important health-promoting effect. More vegetables can prevent certain chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, etc.

In Chinese cuisine, many vegetables are applied to add more flavor and texture to the dish and ensure nutrient balance. Now let’s have a look at some facts about vegetables in China.

What vegetables grow in China?

According to statistics from experts of Chinese agricultural history, there are more than 150 kinds of vegetables in China. Unlike the fruits in China, about 60% of these vegetables are introduced from overseas. Original Chinese vegetables include Chinese cabbages大白菜 bái cài, Arrowhead慈姑/茨菇 cí gū, Scallions 葱 cōng, Chives 韭菜 jiǔ cài, bamboo shoots 竹笋 zhú sǔn, etc.

Vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, corns, carrots, broccoli, aubergines, cucumbers, spinaches, etc., are all introduced from neighboring countries or other areas since the ancient time of the Five Nations Dynasty, Tang, and Song Dynasties. Cucumbers were introduced from India; the spinach was introduced from Nepal; tomatoes and corn were introduced from South America and carrots from Northern Europe.

Till the Qing Dynasty, all kinds of vegetables you can see nowadays on Chinese markets had completed their transition in the land of China.

What is the most popular vegetable in China?

Chinese cuisines widely apply all kinds of food ingredients, including meat, flesh, vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Some of the vegetables are very popular and generally used in Chinese families.

Chinese cabbage 大白菜 dà bái cài

Chinese cabbage was called “菘sōng ” in ancient times. It was originally produced in northern China. Its seeds were found in clay pots unearthed from the Banpo cultural site, indicating that Chinese cabbage has a history of more than 6,000 years.

Cabbage can be stir-fried, boiled in soup, and is also suitable for pairing with other types of meat.

Chinese people love to eat Chinese cabbages for many reasons. Cabbage is a typical high-yield vegetable which makes it’s an ecumenical vegetable for general families. Unlike other leafy vegetables, the storage period of the Chinese cabbage can reach more than 5 months. When it is pickled, the storage period will be even further extended.

Tomatoes 西红柿 xī hóng shì

You must have heard about the famous national dish of China – the stir-fried tomatoes and eggs. Though tomatoes are not originally from China, Chinese people use this juicy vegetable delicately to balance the dish’s sour-sweet taste and let the bright color of the tomatoes as an attractive decoration.

Except for the famous stir-fried tomatoes and eggs, tomatoes are also widely used when cooking meats dish. The fresh sour taste can make the meat tastes less greasy. Some popular meat dishes that using tomatoes are Stewed Beef Belly Meats with Tomatoes, Stewed Pork Spareribs, Sweet-sour pork ribs (it is also a dish cooked with fruits, find out more facts by learning about the fruits in China)Stir-fried tomatoes and soft tofu, Stir-fried minced tomatoes, pork meat, and green peppers, etc.

Chives 韭菜 jiǔ cài

Chives is a kind of vegetable that can highly adapt to the environment. It is resistant to extreme cold and heat and is widely planted across the country of China. In China, chives are mainly divided into two categories, broadleaf, and narrow leaf. In Chinese cuisines, chives can be used as a condiment for dishes or as the main ingredient for cooking. Chives contain special ingredients such as plant-based aromatic volatile oil and sulfides, which emit a unique spicy odor. These substances can help increase appetite and facilitate the human body to absorb vitamin B1 and vitamin A.

Among the common Chinese dishes, the most common chive dishes include stir-fried tofu with chives, roasted chives, scrambled eggs with chives, stir-fried prawns with chives, and cold chive salad.

Bamboo shoots 竹笋 zhú sǔn

Bamboo shoots are a traditional Chinese delicacy with a fragrant smell, crispy taste, and a long history of cultivation. Since ancient times ago, bamboo shoots are praised as a pearl among food ingredients.

Bamboo shoots collected in the winter and spring seasons have the best taste. It can be freshly cooked or pickled to stimulate a richer taste and preserve for longer.

The best way to appreciate the fresh taste of bamboo shoots is to cook them with meat. Whether cut into cubes, slices, or strings, its essential flavor is always well blended with the meat and makes the dish less greasy.

Lotus roots莲藕 lián ǒu

The most famous lotus roots growing area in China is the Hubei Province, where has Wuhan as its capital city.

As its name indicated, the lotus roots are the root part of the lotus. There are pipe-like holes inside the lotus roots. When it is transversely cut, you can observe silk-like fibers connecting the separating segments.

Lotus roots are sweet and crispy when still raw, but they could taste soft and collapse after being well-cooked. So it can be cooked as both a cold dish and a hot dish.

Where to buy vegetables in China?

The most common place to buy vegetables and fruits in China is the agricultural products trading market. This market is particularly set up for selling and buying various agricultural products, including vegetables, fruits, cooked dishes, and other side-line products. Some vegetables sold here are from big farms nearby the city, and others are directly sold by self-employed farmers. Vegetables sold on this market are fresh and clean. You can negotiate with the vendor about the price. Normally, a special discounted price would be offered to sell out the stock as soon as possible in the evening.

Besides the market, you can also go to the supermarket for vegetable purchasing. If you have downloaded some useful mobile apps when living in China, such as Meituan, E’lema, then ordering vegetables online is also an available choice for you. There is even a group-buying service if you book your vegetables online, which allows you to buy vegetables at an unbelievably low price.

Are vegetables expensive in China?

The price of vegetables in China is usually at a reasonable level. China has a huge population base and vast territory, and it seems impossible to ensure the vegetable supply match up with the purchasing need. To make sure that everyone can enjoy vegetables throughout the whole year, the government invested many funds and technology in the agricultural industry. The farming land area is also growing gradually every year. So the yields of vegetables are in a large quantity that is enough to match both domestic demands and export demands. That’s why the price of vegetables in China is usually low and steady. You may learn more about the Chinese agricultural industry via the FAQ section below. 

By now, do you know what to order in a Chinese restaurant?

Chinese vocabularies for vegetables

Spinach 菠菜 bō cài Chinese cabbage 大白菜 dà bái cài Tomatoes 西红柿 xī hóng shì
Chives 韭菜 jiǔ cài Lotus root 莲藕 lián ǒu Bamboo shoots 竹笋 zhú sǔn
Cabbage 卷心菜 juàn xīn cài Carrot 胡萝卜 hú luó bo White radish 白萝卜 bái luó bo
Yam 山药 shān yào Broccoli 西兰花 xī lán huā Criander 香菜 xiāng cài
Sweet potato 红薯 hóng shǔ Pumpkin 南瓜 nán guā Green onion 葱 cōng
Celery 芹菜 qín cài Aubergine 茄子 qié zǐ Mint 薄荷 bò he
Onion 洋葱 yáng cōng Courgette 西葫芦 xī hú lu Chinese lettuce/stem lettuce 莴笋 wō sǔn
Potato 土豆 tǔ dòu Mushroom 蘑菇 mó gu Lettuce 生菜 shēng cài
Zizania 茭白 jiāo bái Cucumber 黄瓜 huáng guā Kelp 海带 hǎi dài
Green pepper 青椒 qīng jiāo Garlic 大蒜 dà suàn Corn 玉米 yù m


Download the PDF of [Vegetables Vocabularies in Chinese]


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1. Is there any vegetable that is only available in regions in China?

Yes, there is.

For example, you can only enjoy the freshest wild-grown mushrooms in the rainy season in Yunnan province. Another famous local vegetable in Yunnan is the Typha Orientalis. Local people love this vegetable for its special fragrance. It is a super delicious food ingredient you can have when drinking soup. One of the famous Yunnan cuisines, the cross-bridge rice noodle, uses this vegetable to enrich the taste. This vegetable also tastes good by simply stir-frying with oil.


2. Is there any vegetable that only Chinese love to eat?

Sponge Squash 丝瓜 sī guā

Sponge Squash’s dishes include Stewed Sponge Squash with Chicken Soup, Stir-fried Sponge Squash, Steamed Sponge Squash with minced pork meat.

Wax Squash 冬瓜 dōng guā

Dishes using Wax Squash include Stewed Was Squash with Shrimps, Braised Wax Squash, Stewed Pork Spareribs, and Wax Squash soup.

Bitter Gourd 苦瓜 kǔ guā

Dishes using Bitter Gourd include Stir-fried Bitter Gourd, Steamed flavored Bitter Gourd with minced pork meat, Stir-fried Bitter Gourd with Eggs.

3. What would Chinese do if they want to preserve the vegetables for longer?

To better preserve some vegetables, Chinese people would choose to pickle them with salt, brown sugar and other flavoured seasonings. Most of the preserved vegetables can be served as a side dish during a meal. Some of them can also be used as a food ingredient to make a new dish.  Some pickled vegetables can even be served as street snacks, such as the pickled white radish, pickled cucumber, pickled bamboo shoots, etc.

4. Can Chinese enjoy vegetables throughout the whole year ? If so, why?

Yes, except for some particularly wild-growing vegetables, you can buy all kinds of vegetables from a Chinese market throughout the whole year.

To ensure the vegetable supply of the whole nation, the Chinese government invested a large number of funds and technology into the agricultural industry to ensure a maximum yield of vegetables. Besides that, the government also tried its best to set up a well-organized logistic system to ensure the transportation and distribution of vegetables produced in different areas. Therefore, whenever you stop by the agricultural products trading and selling market, you can always find most kinds of vegetables are selling on the market.

5. How many vegetables are consumed in China every year?

According to the statistics in 2020, the vegetable consumption per person per year in China is over 370 KG.

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