Twice in the past two weeks days I've detoured to Manhattan's Chinatown on the way back home purely driven by a craving for one thing: snow pea shoots (also known as leaves and tips). Not a pastry. Not a pig-derived product. A vegetable. After being briefly exposed to heat, these young plantling bits melt down and retain crunchiness in their hollow stalks while their leaves become soft, and release an addictively sweet, mellow flavor. When raw, they give off a hint of that fresh pea scent that makes me feel like I've shoved my face into a bucket of vibrant pea-enhanced sunshine.
My first snow pea shoot dish only involved some garlic (unfortunately, garlic that had been sitting around for too long; I tossed it out afterward) and soy sauce. But it was tasty. You don't have to do much to pea shoots to make them palatable, which is good when you're someone like me and are as adept at seasoning food as a Parisian is at picking up their dog's poop. (I tend to err on the side of underseasoning when cooking without a recipe, thus resulting in a lot of bland food that I wouldn't even feed to an enemy. Not that I would invite an enemy into my kitchen. And not that I have any enemies. Um.)
My second snow pea shoot dish included wide rice noodles, which I had never actually cooked with before despite it being one of my favorite carbs. Kathy suggested that I cut them into one-inch wide strips and fry them with some sesame oil and oyster sauce. I tossed in some snow pea shoots as the noodles developed a faint golden brown crust. T'was delicious.
Overall cost of these dishes? Not much. Snow pea shoots were something like $3 a pound (aka, a rather large bagful) and the rice noodle rolls were $0.75 a sheet. One sheet = one generous meal. Shove in a quarter- to half-pound of pea shoots and you've got...probably too much food. I felt uncomfortably full after my first plate because I failed to stop eating when my stomach said, "Um, I'm full. Like 'I want to puke' full. Could you stop for a bit?" But that's what I tend to do—eat everything. You can easily include meat/some other source of protein in this dish, if you want.
Snow pea shoots are available in Chinese grocery stores and produce stands—I'm not sure if you can get them elsewhere, or if you could, whether the price would be the same. I'm equally unknowledgeable about fresh wide rice noodles, but I've been aware of the vendor on the corner of Grand Street and Bowery for years. Get your rice noodles from her (she also sells the dried shrimp and scallion variety) and then walk eastward on Grand to find your snow pea shoots. I think I got mine from a market on the corner of Eldridge.
If you have good snow pea shoot recipe suggestions, comment away. HELP THE BOPPY FEED HERSELF.
Rice noodle lady!
Bowery & Grand St
New York, NY 10013