Yóumàicài 油麦菜 – A Tsai

Good luck finding anything listed as yóumàicài at any of the Asian markets in Atlanta. Honestly, I think I’ve only heard that name once. I learned the more common name, a-tsai or a-choy, from Frank Ma. It’s occasionally listed as Chinese or Taiwanese lettuce as well. So what is it?

Well, believe it or not it’s a Chinese cultivar of lettuce. And while that sounds boring as hell, thanks to Frank, this has become one of my favorite vegetables. A-tsai has a delicate leaf and a stalk similar to romaine. The taste is just slightly bitter and, I can’t think of a better adjective, fresh.

Prep is easy – trim to 3″-4″ pieces and clean in a sink of water, much like spinach. (One tip: use this stuff right away – God knows how they ship it – I’ve never had it last in the refrigerator more than a day).

Stir fry garlic and scallions in a bit of oil, then add the a-tsai.

Add a pinch of salt – it will wilt down quickly.

I like to finish with furu (fermented soybean curd).


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