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Asian Spring Greens Guide + How to Enjoy Them (Korean Edition)

Asian Spring Greens Guide + How to Enjoy Them (Korean Edition)

Spring is a time when we see tons of recipes about wonderful spring soups, refreshing salads, and much, much more! While there are many variations of the typical spring vegetables that we know and love, sometimes these vegetables can get monotonous. This is why we want to introduce you to these common Asian vegetables! Marinated and prepared in unique ways that are particular to the East, these Asian veggies are the perfect way to diversify your diet while staying healthy! Many of these greens are easy to grow in your own backyard, so give them a try and, as always, enjoy! 

1. Baby Bok Choy


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You’ve probably heard of bok choy before, but have you heard of the mini version of this crunchy and multifunctional vegetable? While bok choy is commonly prepared in broths or stir fried, baby bok choys in particular are prepared as a variation of kimchi in Korea! Known as Cheonggyeonchae Geotjeori, this spicy dish is perfect for those who want to make a quick, kimchi-like side dish without the hassle of fermentation or the complication of making actual kimchi. This pairs especially well with steamed rice and broth. Baby bok choys are also wonderful if roasted, steamed, or lightly dipped in a hot pot, so definitely try that out as well!

2. Napa Cabbage


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Classically used as the main ingredient in kimchi, napa cabbages are also used as wraps and prepared as pancakes, stir fries, and salads. With a crunchy texture and a slightly sweet, yet refreshing taste, napa cabbages are thin and leafy greens used in a wide variety of Asian dishes. They turn quite soft in broths and maintain their crunch even after months of fermentation, so they make the perfect healthy addition to any meal! 

3. Korean Radish


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Quite similar to the daikon radish in appearance, Korean radishes are often thicker, longer, firmer, and crunchier than the Japanese radish. The Korean radish is also a main proponent of the Korean style dashi (known as yuksu), and is a base stock and staple of Korean cuisine. Because of its peppery, slightly sweet flavor, Korean radish is also used as a side dish: spicy Korean radish salad and Korean pickled radish are commonly enjoyed.  We recommend you try the pickled radish with a greasier meal, like chicken wings and beer, to refresh your palette! 

4. Chives and Green Onions (Scallions)


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You may have heard of (and used) chives and green onions, but even then, there are many times when people still get confused over which is which! So...trivia time! In the picture above, which are the green onions? 

...You got it right! (Or very wrong!) The green onions are on the left. You can tell because of their more bulbous and thick appearance, whereas the chives are long, thin, and green all over. Scallions, used interchangeably with green onions, are simply the younger onions that have been harvested a little earlier than green onions. Because chives are thinner and have a milder flavor than green onions, most recipes require a significantly larger quantity of chives than it would green onions. Both chives and green onions can be consumed cooked or raw. Here are the different ways you can cut these vegetables based on your dish. 

Chives Recipes: Popular American Recipes with Chives, Chinese Chive Pockets, Shrimp and Chives Stir Fry, Garlic Chives Pancakes, Korean Chive Salad

Green Onion Recipes: Spicy Green Onion Salad, Green Onion Kimchi, Mushroom and Green Onion Stir Fry, Seared Tuna with Kimchi and Scallion Pancakes 

5. Mung Bean Sprouts


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Commonly enjoyed in South and East Asia, mung bean sprouts are healthy, fibrous vegetables high in vitamins, minerals, proteins, antioxidants, and amino acids, but low in calories. These bean sprouts are very mild in flavor and very crunchy. For that reason, it is often enjoyed as a side dish or in broths and stir fries since the sprouts soak up the sauce or seasoning very well. They are very easy to grow at home, so you should give it a try as well! We also recommend trying the Korean bean sprouts salad, Stir Fried Tofu with Bean Sprouts and Mushroom, Bean Sprouts with Fried Garlic, or the Mung Bean Dry Curry

6. Chinese Lotus Root


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The Chinese lotus root is an edible rhizome, or stem, of an underwater lotus plant. This stem continuously grows horizontal and is jokingly referred to as the “underwater sausage.” In our opinion, it most looks like a potato! However, the real charm is when you cut into it. Because of its porous air pockets inside of the stem (in a pinwheel formation), the result of cutting into it vertically creates  something like a beautiful flower-like shape. This vegetable is crisp, light, and starchy, with a potato-like texture, so it’s quite good steamed, fried, and stir fried. One of the most popular Korean side dishes using the lotus root is yeongeun jorim, or a sweet, soy-braised lotus root. Like potatoes, these are also wonderful as a fried chip!

7. Burdock Root


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One of our favorite underdog vegetables is the burdock root, native to Northern Asia and Europe. This is a long, thin, dark root that is extremely beneficial to one’s health, which is why it is also used as a medicine. Koreans also enjoy the burdock root as a delicious, sauteed side dish. Full of vitamins and minerals and somewhat like a radish in texture, burdock root is not only healthy but tasty as well. Other enjoyable recipes are burdock fries and pounded burdock root. Saving the best for last, we also love burdock tea, which is great hot and cold! We 

8. Minari


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Popularized in the movie with the same name, minari is also known as water dropwort. While the whole plant is used as medicine, minari is also perfect in salads, seasoning, pancakes, stews, and toppings. Try the Korean-styled Minari Side Dish, Minari Salad, Minari Pancake, and Spicy Fish Stew

9. Namul


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Namul actually refers to a variety of edible, wild grasses, leaves, sprouts, and starchy root varieties, which are all made into seasoned herbal dishes that are flavorful and organic. Most of these vegetables are seasoned in the same way and can be found in Asian supermarkets, or even in mountains and forests near you (if you know what you’re looking for). Healthy, delicious, and fresh, namul is definitely a Korean favorite! For an easier, more accessible dish, try this spinach namul dish

10. Perilla Leaves


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Another easy-to-grow Korean staple is the perilla leaf! A little fuzzy in texture, perilla leaves are the perfect wrap or addition to salads, meats, and more. The flavor is quite unique and almost nutty, but some describe the taste as minty and licorice-like, with hints of basil and anise. Because perilla leaves are soft yet crunchy and the leaves absorb all flavors, they are great marinated. Because of its fragrant taste, it’s also the perfect fried snack, known as kkaennip-bugak, or even as the outer casing to a pan-fried stuffed perilla leaf. A personal favorite is to slice the perilla leaves about a centimeter thick and to add it to your salads!