Cilantro haters, beware!!!! You have been warned. Now entering cilantro territory.
A visiting scholar named Ye Feng is staying with my sister and her family while she is in the US, and as she has pretty much become part of the family, she often joins us for meals when we do our weekly family dinners. One particular meal, Ye Feng announced that she wanted to share a dish with us, and, always curious, I looked around to get hints of what it might be. I saw a big bowl of cut-up cilantro, so I knew it would be a winner. (Mr. ABC Chef the cilantro-hater, had other thoughts.)
Ye Feng made what she called ‘lao hu cai,’ which in her version, consisted of a trifecta of scallions, cilantro, and jalapeños. ‘Lao hu cai’ literally means ‘tiger vegetable,’ and rightly so, because of the hot peppers in it. Apparently, Xi’An Famous Foods also sells something very similar, by the name of Tiger Vegetable Salad! Anyway, Lao hu cai is tangy, spicy, salty, and a great simple side dish that can be served with any Chinese-style meal. I love the freshness of the cilantro, paired with the malty tartness of the vinegar and topped off with heat from the peppers, and hope you would, too.
It’s helpful to let the vegetables sit in the marinade for at least 10-15 minutes to let the jalapeño seeds sink into the liquid, and let all the flavors meld together. The next day, the vinegary spiciness will be even more apparent, but some of the cilantro won’t be as crisp, so keep that in mind. I’m not sure if there’s any ‘official’ way to serve lao hu cai, but I loved it with rice and cabbage alongside the teriyaki chicken we had. Thanks, Ye Feng, for introducing this dish to us!!
Lao hu cai
1 big bunch of cilantro
2 stalks scallions
2 or more jalapeños
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp lao chen ( 老陳) vinegar OR Chinkiang black vinegar
1 Tbsp light soy sauce OR salt to taste
1 tsp sesame oil
1) Dice the cilantro into small pieces. Slice the scallions and jalapeños thinly.
2) Add the vinegar, soy sauce (or salt), and sesame oil. Mix well.
3) If possible, let all ingredients sit together for 10-15 minutes, as you prepare the rest of your meal.
-Feel free to adjust quantities as needed, adding jalapeños or using even spicier chilies if you want. If you can’t handle the heat but love cilantro too much to pass on this dish, you could use a green bell pepper in place of jalapeños.
-I usually use all of the cilantro- stems included, but feel free to use only leaves if you wish.
-Other recipes may include sliced cucumbers and/or red chile peppers instead- this version is made the way Ye Feng made it, and the way it was introduced to me. Adjust it to your taste!