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Fruit, 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 smaller.

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.
Image: Wu Tao - Click to Enlarge   Image: Wu Tao - Click to Enlarge
Image: Wu Tao - Click to Enlarge   Image: Wu Tao - Click to Enlarge 
Recipe 1

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 root.
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 do it.
I add a little refined salt and ground black pepper near the end for taste - Cantonese people do not.
Image: Siu Yuk - Click to Enlarge

Cooking Method:
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 wonderful.
Recipe 2

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 root.
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.
Image: Fa Hin or Chinese Cockles - Click to Enlarge

Cooking Method:
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 in UK.
Recipe 3

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 mouthful.

Cooking Method:
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.
Recipe 4

Wu Tao as Street Food

These Wu Tao are quite edible and pleasant.

Whole washed Wu Tao and a steamer or cauldron.

Cooking Method:
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 chilli sauce.

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.

Recipe 5

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.

Cooking Method:
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 similar.

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 in.

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.
A blowtorch.


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.
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