Monday, November 12, 2007

Pea shoot salad (dou miao)

For me, peas are meant to roll off your fork, around your plate, and off the table. They are round pellets that come in pods. I had never considered the leaves before. Then last spring, Erin made me eat some pea shoots at the SF Ferry Plaza farmers market. I was amazed at how the leaves smelled and tasted just like peas, only lighter and somehow fruitier. I've probably eaten them a million times in Asian stir-fry dishes but without recognizing them as pea-kin under all that oyster sauce.

As we head into the winter months, snow pea shoots are sprouting their delicate leafy heads and will be with us into spring. My friend Paul brought some over last night for a salad. We experimented with adding pomegranate seeds and kumquat bits. The dressing had miso, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, lemon juice, kumquat zest, and perhaps some additional tasty ingredients that he threw in on a whim. It was delicious. The citrus flavor complemented the crisp pea shoots especially well. The only problem can be getting a good-sized bunch onto your fork and into your mouth. You will probably look like a giant rabbit at some point during your meal.

These shoots are known as "dou miao" in Mandarin (thanks Corey!). They are the small kind (xiao dou miao), as opposed to the larger kind (da dou miao), which is more frequently used in stir-fry dishes. Paul got a heaping box of them for $1.99 in Japantown. Here are some ideas for pea shoots in both salad and stir-fry from EatingAsia. This blog tells us that Asian pea shoots are more delicate than their sturdy English pea shoot cousins. If you want to try to grow your own, Evergreen seeds sells them.

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