These are the ivory-colored shoots of the bamboo plant. Widely available in cans, fresh bamboo shoots are expensive and seasonal. Bamboo shoots have a tender-crisp texture and sweet flavor. To refresh canned bamboo shoots, rinse and quickly blanch before use.
A Chinese cabbage with white stems and broad, dark green leaves, Shanghai or baby bok choy are smaller varieties with a more delicate flavor. Steamed, blanched or used in soups and stir-fries, bok choy imparts a refreshing, mildly bitter taste. Choose stalks that are crisp, with unblemished leaves.
Hot peppers, known as chilies, are used throughout Asia to make sauces and pastes, and to season stir-fries and braised dishes. Chilies vary in size, color, shape and heat levels, and are used in both fresh and dried form. Dried chilies are used whole or ground. Fresh chilies should be firm and bright, with no blemishes.
The broad leaves, tender stalks and delicate white flowers of this vegetable are all edible. It has a mild flavor, similar to Western broccoli, but with a slightly bitter, earthy taste. Ideal for steaming and stir-frying; often paired with oyster sauce.
Also known as garlic chives, these flat green chives are quite pungent and are used extensively in stir-fries and soups.
Also known as Chinese parsley or coriander, this herb has a pungent, fresh and somewhat earthy taste. Widely used in Chinese and Southeast Asian cooking.
A popular Japanese root vegetable also known as Chinese white radish, daikon resembles a large, white carrot. It has a firm texture that can withstand long cooking. It can be stir-fried, braised, boiled, steamed or served raw (often grated or finely shredded) in salads. Select daikon that is firm, heavy and unblemished, with solid, smooth skin.
Drying mushrooms concentrates their flavors and produces a deep, meaty taste. Dried mushrooms are ideal in soups, stuffings, stir-fries and braised dishes. To reconstitute, soak in warm water 15-20 minutes; remove fibrous stems.
This knobby, light-beige-colored rhizome can be purchased young or mature. Young ginger is more tender and milder in flavor and doesn't need to be peeled. Mature ginger has a more assertive, peppery bite. Both should be firm and free of wrinkles. Grated, slivered, minced and sliced ginger can be used in a range of dishes -- from marinades and stir-fries to curries and soups.
An essential ingredient in Thai, Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian cooking, this fibrous herb has long, thin, pale-green leaves and a green-onion-like base. It imparts a subtle, lemony flavor and aroma. Only the base of the stalk is used in cooking, often finely minced or pounded into a paste. Large pieces used to flavor a dish during cooking must be removed before serving.
A delicate, leafy green with long, jagged-edged leaves, mizuna can be used in salads, stir-fries or as a garnish in soups.
This oval-shaped, broad-leafed head has very crisp, pale-green, crinkled leaves and a sweet, delicate flavor. It is used extensively in stir-fried dishes and soups, and absorbs flavors beautifully.
Also known as "spoon cabbage," tatsoi is a leafy Asian green with a slightly spicy cabbage flavor. It can be used in salads and stir-fries.
The canned variety is more widely available, but fresh water chestnuts are a treat that add incredible sweetness, juiciness and crunchy texture to Asian stir-fries, stews, stuffings and soups. Fresh water chestnuts have a dark, brown-black skin that can be peeled with a sharp knife. They should be firm with no soft spots.