A Vegetarian Chinese Meal

Tonight I made Chinese food for dinner. Country-style, people — not the ick you get at Chinese restaurants slathered in brown sauce. I made most of the dishes less salty because I included both a salty duck egg and pan-fried goat cheese, both of which are super salty. I found that strong, unsweetened black tea complemented the saltiness well. I ate this with a small bowl of sushi-type rice.

The recipes pictured here are:

Pan-Fried Yunnan Goat Cheese
Simple Opo Squash Soup
Salty Duck Egg
Chinese Pea Stems with Garlic
Chinese Stir-Fried Eggplant

Pan-Fried Yunnan Goat Cheese

This goat cheese was my absolute favorite to order when I lived in China, and one of the things I most missed about leaving. The cheese is firm, very dry, and extremely salty. The final result should be pleasantly browned. It is first pan-fried (no oil) and then dusted with a blend of hua jiao aka Sichuan pepper, black pepper, and red pepper powder. You can add quite a bit of the normally intense pepper and powder because the cheese is so salty.

I feel very proud to have discovered that you can simulate this Yunnan-specific cheese by using Greek Halloumi, available at many an average grocery store. The taste is, well, exact!

To read more about this dish, check out the blog Appetite for China.

Opo Squash Soup

This soup is simple but extremely flavorful. It's nice to have a small bowl of soup while you are eating more strong-flavored and salty Chinese dishes. This squash is truly amazingly yummy, even though it doesn't look very exciting. It is sort of like zucchini meets cucumber, but more tasty. Your soup should be rich and sweet. Of course, if you eat meat, you might cook this with chicken or beef.

To handle the opo squash, first peel it, then scrape out the seeds and cut into 1 inch hunks. Make the base of the soup by sauteing diced onions, plenty of chopped garlic, and 1 tsp of chopped ginger. Add the squash, salt, and sugar and cook until partially cooked, about 10 minutes. Add just enough water to cover the squash and simmer while you are cooking your other dishes, or 15-20 more minutes. Add more seasoning to taste.

Just before serving, you might also scramble 2-3 eggs and drizzle them into the soup while it is simmering. Gently swirl the soup with a spoon until the egg firms into a wispy cover.

Salty Duck Egg

This very yummy Chinese preserved duck egg xian ya dan is more like a condiment than something to eat on its own. By salty, you should understand that it is almost inedible. This egg is not for the faint of heart, but once you love it, nothing can replace it! The ultimate poverty food, it serves particularly well as a complement to something plain, such as a bowl of rice or rice porridge. You can eat it as part of a larger Chinese meal and wow your guests. It is not necessary to cook or heat it. One egg cut length-wise in half and then again might be a good way to serve it. The white part is firm, the yolk will appear to be somewhat oily and taste extremely salty. It has a fun texture when you eat it.

Sometimes the eggs are prepared by burying the eggs in salty water underground for a few months. It really doesn't get more amazing than that. And can you believe — I actually found salty duck eggs around here! They are not the best, but hey, you take what you can get.

Read more on Wikipedia. You can even learn how to cure the eggs here.

Chinese pea stems

Chinese pea stems (dou miao) make a great green veggie side that differs nicely from the old standards like spinach. And it's just as easy. Check your local Asian mart to find them; their availability can depend on the season. They are most easily characterized by their hollow stems.

To cook, heat a good amount of chopped garlic in oil. Add hot Thai peppers if you'd like the dish spicy. Add the pea stems and quickly saute until wilted. Add salt to taste and a dash of sesame oil. Yum!

Chinese Stir-Fried Eggplant
The eggplant I used to eat in China was not heavily drenched in brown sauce, but was more lightly cooked, homestyle. This is veryeasy! The secret is SUGAR.


  • 2 Japanese eggplants (long and skinny, look in Asian markets if you can't find at your food store), cut into irregular hunks
  • 1 tsp chopped ginger
  • 3 spicy Thai peppers (they're red, small, and skinny)
  • handful chopped green onion
  • dash of soy sauce (about 1 tsp)
  • dash of rice vinegar (about 1 tsp)
  • dash of sesame oil (about 1/2 tsp)
  • salt, sugar, and pepper to taste


  1. Heat the oil, hot peppers, and ginger in a wok or frying pan.
  2. When hot, add the eggplant and stir-fry until thoroughly cooked. Eggplant should be very soft. Add more oil as needed.
  3. Add a bit of water to keep the eggplant moist, then add the remaining ingredients: soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, salt, sugar, pepper, and green onion. Taste to adjust the seasonings. The result should be much more mild than what is usually served at a Chinese restaurant.

Sometimes I cook this with potatoes. I also sometimes like to add flavorful mushrooms, like shiitake or oyster.




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