Different Asian Vegetables and How Best To Cook Them

Words: Jess Spiro

Even if you’re the most adventurous of eaters and find joy in seeking out every edible thing in the world, there are still going to be vegetables that you haven’t heard about. There are certainly many vegetables that we’re still learning about. If you’re a fan of a good stir-fry (and honestly, who isn’t?) and want to mix it up with something a little more authentic, but don’t know where to start, then this list of different Asian vegetables and how best cook them is going to be your new best friend.


Amaranth is instantly recognisable with its purple-flecked leaves and is as tasty as it is pretty. People are generally familiar with the grain, but the greens are very popular in Asian cookery. Younger greens can be eaten raw, but as they get older they can be quite bitter and astringent, so if you’re unsure, simply flash them into a stir-fry to mellow out their flavour.

Bok Choy

Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage and can also be known as Pak Choi. The entire part of the veggie is edible and can be thrown raw into a salad but we like it when tossed in a punchy dressing and stir-fried. However you would enjoy cabbage, you can do the same to Bok choy.

Chinese Broccoli

Chinese broccoli, which is also known as, gai-lan or Chinese kale, is a leafy green vegetable that is closely related to the broccoli we are familiar with. It has flat leaves, thick stems, and tiny florets. Chinese broccoli has a slightly bitter and earthy taste, and is best suited to a steam or sauté, or in a stir-fry.

Chinese Mushroom or Shiitake

Shiitake mushrooms (or Chinese mushrooms) form an important part of Asian cuisine, with the dried stems regularly used to boost umami in broths, stocks, soups and sauces. They shouldn’t be eaten raw, as they can cause rashes, so they’re best cooked in a stir-fry to tap into their earthy, rich flavour.


Similar to a radish, a daikon is crunchy and packs a mild peppery taste. In Asian cuisine, it is mostly pickled or served raw, but it’s delicious when steamed or quickly tossed into a stir-fry.

Lotus Root

As the name suggests, this is the literal root of the lotus flower. These are best eaten cooked, as the flavour can be quite tannic when raw. You can do nearly anything to lotus root and it will handle it. It’s best tossed into a stir-fry, but can be steamed, battered and fried or roasted.

Napa Cabbage

If you’re a kimchi fan, then you’ve definitely eaten Napa cabbage. Otherwise known as Chinese cabbage, it can be used as you would any other type of cabbage. It can be eaten raw in salads or shredded and quickly sauteed for a stir-fry, as well as fermented in a classic kimchi.

Thai Basil

Not to be confused with it’s European cousin, Thai basil is a much spicier, zingy and aniseed-y flavour than Italian basil. As with most herbs, you can eat it raw, or it can added to soups, stews and curries, and can add freshness to stir-fries.

Water Chestnuts

Spoiler alert: the water chestnut is not a nut at all, but is actually a vegetable that grows under water or in the mud on the water’s edge. Once peeled, the edible flesh is crisp, with a delicate sweetness. They can be eaten raw, grilled or boiled, and are often found pickled.

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