Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why do Chinese takeout veggies stay green?

Takeout Chinese-style Jumbo Shrimp with Mixed Vegetables.

Stir-fried vegetables from our favorite Chinese takeout shop arrive a bright green and stay green even after a night or two in the refrigerator.

The vegetables we prepare at home turn bright green when we blanch them in hot water, but they often turn gray if left to steam in a covered pot or after refrigeration.

For many years, I've been blanching collard greens, spinach, broccoli and other vegetables; draining the pot, adding olive oil and seasonings, and allowing them to cook for a few more minutes over a low flame.

But the secret to bright green vegetables appears to be blanching combined with stir-frying.

On Sunday, I bought fresh mustard greens at H Mart in Englewood for 48 cents a pound, brought them home, cut them up and washed them.

I dug out a wok, which I haven't used in many years,  and stir-fried the leafy greens with garlic and a little rice wine and soy sauce.

Mustard greens brighten after being stir-fried in a wok.

However, after a night in the fridge, some of the greens turned an unappetizing gray.

Should I have blanched them briefly in hot water before stir-frying them?

I called New Zen Kitchen in Teaneck, where we have gotten our Chinese takeout for more than five years, and asked how they cook Mixed Vegetables with Fresh Garlic.

I was told the vegetables are blanched in hot water before they are stir-fried with fresh garlic, which is my preferred preparation.

Most of the cooking or softening of the vegetables is done in the hot water. 

Steamed frozen cod with sake, soy sauce and lime juice.

A Sunday dinner of cod and mustard greens.

The Trident-brand frozen cod fillets came from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack. 

Even when frozen, cod is one of the meatiest fish around after it is steamed, breaking into large, tender pieces.

New Zen Kitchen, 1443 Queen Anne Road, 
Teaneck; 201-837-7322. Open 7 days.


  1. Excellent tip, Victor! I always blanch broccoli when I make my rigatoni with broccoli from "The Soprano's Family
    Cookbook". It stays bright green even two days later. Thank you.


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