Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Years ago my apartment mate returned from the farmers market with something that could only be described as a "big ass yam".
Or 'big donkey yam', for the Bowdlerized version.
She was positively gloating about it.

It was indeed extraordinary.

A few minutes later the phone rang, with a salesperson in a trailer park out in Inbredistan trying to get me to switch plans back to ATT, so rather than explaining that they were barking mad, ATT sucked eggs, and Hades would sooner freeze entirely over, I instead gave vent to my worshipful admiration for the 'big ass yam'. Or big donkey yam. I waxed poetic.
It was a remarkably short phone conversation.
They might not have yams in Inbredistan.

Today I saw its cousin. And I had no clue what it was.

It is sold in Chinatown

[Flumen or fontenym, plus 'mountain'.]

Okay, it's a root. Tuberous. And I feel quite tickled that I can read the Chinese name. That's a big step in the right direction.
But what the heck is it?

Several old ladies assured me that it was good for the kidneys (腎 'san'). As well as the spleen (脾 'pei'). And also the liver (肝 'gon'). Particularly when cooked with such things as tripe (百葉 'paak yip'), corn (粟米 'suk mai'), and carrots (紅蘿蔔 'hong lo bok'). Long simmering is best. Other things it can be cooked with include 枸杞子 ('gau gei ji': Lycium chinense), black wood ears (黑木耳 'hak muk yi'), and Chinese red dates (红枣 'hong jou').

It is very good!

Thank you, auntie.

I remain quite clueless.

[Waai saan hong jou tong sui]

淮山5兩 (five taels of Waaisaan).
红枣1兩 (one tael of red dates).
白糖适量 (a suitable amount of sugar).

淮山去皮,切片 (peel and chop the Waaisaan).
红枣洗净,切片 (rinse and chop the dates).
淮山同红枣放入水中 (dump both into water).
煮到淮山變軟 (cook until the Waaisaan softens).
加數量糖 (add a suitable quantity of sugar).

係噉 (that is all).

["Waai saan hong jou tong sui: Waai saan ng leung. Hong jou yat leung. Paak tong sik leung. Waai saan heui pei, chit pin. Hong jou sai jeng, chit pin. Waai saan tong hong jou fong yap sui jung. Jiu dou waai saan pin yuen. Gaa sou leung tong. Hai gam."]

Simple, tasty, and undoubtedly very healthful.
Good for yin energy (陰氣 'yam hei').
Your kidneys and spleen.
And the liver.

At this point I still didn't know what this most beneficial vegetable was. The vegetable seller didn't know the English name either, but assured me that it was "waai saan".

I should've asked her to write down how to cook it with meat, carrots, and corn too. Though I would've substituted parsnips, because I'm not too hep on carrots.

Turns out it's Dioscorea opposita - the Korean yam.
淮山葯 waai saan yeuk.

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