I found love for green veggies like no other when I was introduced to pea shoots, or dòu miáo (豆苗) in Chinese, soon after settling down in Singapore, some twenty-odd years ago. It’s an eternal love affair, as time has shown, for I never tire of this delicate, nourishing and nutritious Asian vegetable, and whenever it’s available at my usual tze char eating places, or at Chinese restaurants, it will usually be my first choice of a vegetable dish at the table.
But given how prices of restaurant meals have creeped up over the years, it seems almost sinfully wanton to pay so much for a vegetable dish that you can easily, and in a matter of minutes, cook at home, and costing you just a fraction of what you would have to fork out. I don’t know about you, dear readers, but it’s hard for me to part with hard-earned money, especially when I am aware of the costs of raw ingredients, and even more so, when it’s for meals I know I can prepare at home.
So, here is a delicious and incredibly simple stir-fry of pea shoots with garlic that doesn’t require any skill, really. Pea shoots (dòu miáo – 豆苗), which also goes by many names, namely snow pea shoots, pea tips, pea vines or pea stems, are the tender, growing tips of the edible, mature pea plant, primarily consisting of the several top leaves, stem, and tendril which forms at the end of the vine. Pea shoots are different from pea sprouts, the latter being the variety that is more commonly available in Singapore, as these are easily grown or cultivated from dried raw pea seeds, in our tropical environment.
Pea shoots are delicate, nutty, crunchy, and juicy, not unlike spinach, but so much more pleasant, without the grit and characteristic astringent effect that spinach (due to its high oxalic acid content) tends to leave on our tongues. What I love about this Asian vegetable is that the young stems are just as tender as the leaves, when cooked, so you don’t really need to throw away any part (unless the stems are really toughened or thick, and leaves wilted or soiled, of course).
Here are some health facts you might be interested to know about pea shoots:
extremely low in calories, with just 18 calories per 100 gm;
7 times more Vitamin C than blueberries – Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant that helps eliminate free radicals which cause oxidative damage in our body;
8 times more folic acid, part of the B-group of vitamins, than bean sprouts – folic acid is needed to make healthy cells and blood;
4 times more Vitamin A than tomatoes – Vitamin A is essential for the health of our skin and for strengthening our immune system. (source: www.peashoots.com)
Here in Singapore, pea shoots are less commonly found than pea sprouts, but we can still get them at our wet markets when these are in season. I can’t quite yet put a finger on when pea shoots are in stock, mostly from Taiwan, so I’ve been told by the vegetable vendors at the market. So when I see pea shoots, I typically grab 3 to 4 packages (each roughly containing 150 to 175 gm) at a go, and shop for these at least 2 to 3 times a week! That’s just how much I love pea shoots!
This recipe is as simple as it gets, but works so well with either pea shoots or pea sprouts, or most Asian greens for that matter.
Check out these other recipes for easy, cook-it-yourself vegetable stir-fries:
For a more enjoyable eating experience, try to snip, or break with your fingers, long pea shoots into bite-sized portions, roughly 1-inch (2-cm) sections, with leaves attached to stems, or shorter stems. Now all you’ll need are just 3 other ingredients to make this tze char version of stir-fried pea shoots with garlic. The key to a flavourful stir fry, in my opinion, is to go all out with the garlic, especially in this dish!