Food

Wax Jamboo and Five Other Unusual Fruits and Vegetables at NYC Chinese Supermarkets

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1. Celtuce is an extreme variety of lettuce native to southern China. It’s also known as stem lettuce, celery lettuce, asparagus lettuce, wo ju, and kaki-jisha. Though the leaves are edible, the cooked stem is the whole point of the vegetable. In addition to steaming and sautéeing, pickling is a popular means of preparation.

Chung Fat Supermarket lies a few blocks south of the No. 7 train terminus at Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street.

Chinese supermarkets, especially in Sunset Park and Flushing, are hotbeds of newly developed and newly introduced fruits and vegetables, and it’s rare to make a visit to one of these football-field-size institutions and not see an unfamiliar botanical.

Here are six fruits and vegetables you won’t find in Western markets. Chefs take note.

2. Chinese celery is thinner and much more pungent than its stouter Western cousin. Goes especially well in stir-fries and slicked with sesame oil in salads.

3. Wax jamboo has been called by many names: rose apple, bellfruit, wax apple, cloud apple, and water apple. However, Syzygium samarangense sports a texture more like a watermelon than an apple, with grainy and watery flesh that causes the skin to bulge and crease. The fruit is native to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Samoa.

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4. Chinese leeks are configured midway between a French leek and a bunch of green onions, with more green flesh than white, and having a formidable white bulb with a flavor more delicate than an onion.

5. Fresh dates have been cultivated since ancient times in the Middle East, and have dozens of uses. Lighter and airier and somewhat less sweet than dried varieties, fresh dates make the perfect hand fruit. They can also be rolled in shredded coconut, or stuffed with almonds.

6. Dragon fruit are native to South and Central America, but more widely cultivated today in Indonesia, the Philippines, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The flesh is something like a white kiwi, with black seeds that can be eaten, and a flavor almost like a lychee, but not quite as perfumey. If nothing else, they make great centerpieces.

Chung Fat occupies nearly an entire city block, and can be mobbed on weekends.

Chung Fat Supermarket
41-82 Main Street
Flushing, Queens
718-886-9368

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