Vegetables and Gourds
Wu Tao or Chinese Potato
| Wu Tao is a common vegetable in Canton
and is available virtually all year round. It is the
tuber of a large leaved plant similar to Gunnera, but
|Wu Tao also share similar proportions
with potatoes, as they can come in many: shapes,
sizes, and colours.
In Guangdong street traders often offer them ready
cooked as in photograph left bottom adjacent.
In this case they would be about three or four
inches long by up to 2 inches wide. These are
eaten as is by simply peeling away the skin.
Please use gloves if peeling uncooked Wu Tao.
Their flesh is highly irritating until cooked!
In turn this also means you should never eat them
unless properly cooked, as severe stomach cramps
will result. However the irritant is not life-threatening,
just very unpleasant.
Wu Tao and Siu Yuk
Chinese Potatoes and thinly sliced suckling pig is one
of my personal top ten dishes in the whole of China!
I discovered this most excellent dish whilst living
on the rural island in Gaogong; and as served by Au
Tai (Mrs Au).
For this recipe one very large Wu Tao is used, probably
measuring 6 or 8 inches round. The suckling pig is like
a streaky bacon with crispy skin similar to British
pork scratching's - you better look at the photo. Note:
If the skin is not crisp, the whole sik yuk is old and
about to go off!
A splash of cooking oil (1 teaspoon).
A few inches of finely diced fresh wet ginger
A few cloves of garlic, omit as to personal preference.
1 large Wu Tao cut into pieces about 1/8th inch
deep, by roughly 3 inches oval = how we would
prepare 'sliced potatoes'.
4 oz of thinly sliced suckling pig.
1 dessert spoon of chicken bouillon (2 level teaspoons)
1 rice bowl (or more) of water. I'm not quite
sure how big this is, but 1 gill should about
I add a little refined salt and ground black pepper
near the end for taste - Cantonese people do not.
Into the wok with a smidgeon of oil, throw in the sliced
ginger and Chinese garlic. Wait a few seconds before
adding the sliced Wu Tao. Toss on a high flame for a
couple of minutes before adding the sliced suckling
pig and chicken bouillon Toss for another minute or
less, and then add a little water. Keep tossing! After
40 seconds add the rest of the water and mix thoroughly
as the dish comes back to the boil. At this point I
would add a large pinch of white pepper, or a small
pinch of black pepper.
Cover the wok and leave on a good simmer for 15 or 20
minutes stirring occasionally. Check every couple of
minutes near the end, as you are looking for a consistency
of thin gravy = if too thin, remove the lid; if too
thick, add some more water. As soon as I consider plating
up for table, I add a small pinch of refined salt (Kosher
or rock salt is far too strong and unbalances the subtle
flavours of this dish).
Serve on a large oval salver, and garnish with whatever
is to hand - preferably parsley or coriander leaves;
although finely chopped spring onions (Scallions) are
Wu Tao and Cockles
|This is an unusual dish that my wife and
mother in law enjoy occasionally. It is
primarily made for the resultant soup, which
apparently is most efficacious in every
way. I remain unconvinced it would appear
on any international menu, but that's 'Horses
for courses' as they say.
A splash of cooking oil (1 teaspoon).
1 small and very nasty chilli.
An inch of finely diced fresh wet ginger
1 Chinese garlic.
Wu Tao cut into chunks too large to eat
in one mouthful.
1 teaspoon of chicken bouillon
1 rice bowl (or more) of water. I'm not
quite sure how big this is, but 1 gill should
about do it.
Into the wok with a smidgeon of oil, throw in
the sliced ginger and diced chilli. Toss for 30
seconds. Add the Wu Tao and continue to toss for
a couple of minutes. Throw in the crushed Chinese
garlic, and continue to toss for a further minute.
Add the dry chicken bouillon granules, and keep
tossing. You may be feeling tossed-off by now,
so add a little water and mix thoroughly for 10
seconds. Add the rest of the water and bring back
to a simmer. Cover and wait for 5-minutes before
deciding to add a little more water and about
a pound of washed, fresh cockles - I'm not sure
why, but this is what my wife did. Re-cover and
leave to simmer for at least 15 minutes. I think
it maybe needs half an hour + some seasoning,
but I am not Chinese, so what do I know?
The dish is cooked once all the cockles have opened,
and it is then served as one dish of solids, and
a separate dish of murky gray liquid, or 'soup
'as my wife calls it. The cockles and Wu Tao are
eaten with a side dish of soy sauce and Guilam
(Guilin) chilli sauce [Combined].
I personally hope she never bothers to cook this
dish ever again, but I present this recipe because
it is very different by virtually all worldwide
culinary standards, and because it can be cooked
Wu Tao Formal
This is the presentation of Wu Tao you will always
receive at 'Posh meals'. The tuber is allowed
to age so it is riddled with brown circles, and
can be ivory or gray in colour. This is another
dish I greatly dislike, as the Wu Tao is extremely
dry and has the palate of congealed flour.
Wu Tao cut into chunks too large to eat in one
The diced Wu Tao are placed in a steamer and cooked
for about 20 minutes, or until soft. They are
then served without embellishment. Many Chinese
people love this, but I would use it for sticking
posters and heavy objects on the wall.
Wu Tao as Street Food
These Wu Tao are quite edible and pleasant.
Whole washed Wu Tao and a steamer or cauldron.
The whole washed Wu Tao are placed in a steamer
or boiler and left to cook on a very slow simmer
until somebody comes along and buys them. These
would be up to 4 inches long, and around 2 inches
wide. They would be cooked after 10 minutes actually,
but longer is better for flavour. If overcooked
they begin to turn a light gray colour, which
is very fine. Peel and eat raw, or dip into a
There is a red version of these which we highlight
below as a soup. These are intrinsically the same
plant, but a cerise red, and a lot sweeter. Some
street vendors also proffer these, and they are
notably different from the white/gray versions.
Hong Wu Tao Tong-gei
Red Wu Tao are generally longer and not as wide.
However, they still look like Wu Tao. They can
be sold for breakfast as whole boiled or steamed
vegetables. Cantonese peoples revere this version,
whilst I can take it or leave it.
However, Cantonese have made a most startling
and memorable soup out of these things; as I enjoyed
on a recent visit to neighbouring Guangxi Province.
Red Wu Tao cut into very small bite-sized chunks
and many pieces diced or squashed into a mush.
Put the prepared red Wu Tao into a saucepan and
cover with water. Bring to the boil and then simmer
for 40 minutes or longer. Remember to check every
5 minutes or so, probably to add a little more
water. It takes about 40 minutes for the Wu Tao
starches to break down properly, at which point
you need to pay attention. If you prefer, it is
the point at which gravy changes, and you need
to be there when the Wu Tao do something very
Therefore instead of having a shocking pink liquid
with bits of stuff in it, it changes to become
a composite fluid - that is probably too thick.
Taste this, and if not immediately sweet to your
taste buds, add a spoonful of honey. Mix well
Continue to adjust over the next 5-minutes or
more, or until you have a mixture about the consistency
of thin single cream. Know that as soon as you
serve this dish it will begin to set. If you got
it right, then any leftovers should still retain
the consistency of double cream when cold.
Outside 'The Box'
If you really want to impress your friends and
make something totally unusual, then here is our
recipe for perhaps the most appealing dessert
you have never tasted.
We will begin by presuming you have left-over
soup from above (Recipe 5), and have probably
frozen the remains whilst wondering what to do
with it? Well, we are going to use this to make
a very tasty and totally unusual sweet course.
Red Wu Tao soup.
1 nip Blue Bols or Créme de Menthe.
Egg whites beaten into a meringue.
Chinese stick honey.
Beat the egg whites with a little sugar to form
a fluffy meringue. Add the Blue Bols to the soup
mixing well, and then fold in the meringue. very
gently, and do not overwork. Gently place mixture
in a serving bowl and grate or chop some Chinese
stick honey over the top to form a thin layer.
Melt this with a kitchen blowtorch to to form
a crusty top. Serve to table . This can be accompanied
by cream or ice-cream.
This information is as supplied by ourselves, and ably
supported by our friends and various internet portals.