In previous weeks, our Seasonal Eats column covered different ways to enjoy Chinese chives and xiangchun sprouts. We continue our series with a spotlight of freshwater shrimp, which hatch in autumn and grow in spring when the weather gets warmer and rivers are swollen with rain water.
Now is the best time to appreciate the subtle taste of plump hexia (河虾). Don’t look down on its tiny size; there’s no need to peel a river shrimp, and its tender and crunchy golden shell is rich in calcium. Does the shell make the texture less delicate, you ask? I’ll tell you – right after I pick off the last shrimp on your plate.
Shanghai-style fried river shrimp 本帮油爆虾 (benbang youbao xia)
The shrimp is first deep-fried first, then flavored with spices and sauces in a hot pan. This Shanghai-style dish is salty but with a sweet taste. Find it at Jindinxuan for RMB 38.8.
Stir-fried river shrimp and luhao 芦蒿炒小河虾 (luhao chao xiaohexia)
Luhao (Artemisia selengensis) is another seasonal vegetable that is popular with locals. The firm, crunchy green pairs well with the crispy little shrimp. Yu Restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton does a version for RMB 168.
Stir-fried chives and river shrimp 春韭炒河虾 (chunjiu chao hexia)
Haven’t had enough of Chinese chives ? Combine it with river shrimp!
Fried salt-and-pepper shrimp 椒盐河虾 (jiaoyan hexia)
Looking for an easy snack for the kids or a comfort food to go with your beer? This simple dish suits both needs. Find it at Nanjing Impressions for RMB 66.
River shrimp soup 河虾汤 (hexia tang)
River shrimp go well with almost any soup, but the most classic combination is shrimp and sliced white radish. Find live river shrimp at one of Beijing’s local markets and add a touch of spring to your soup.
When produce is available year-round at Beijing’s farms and greenhouses, it’s easy to forget that each fruit and vegetable has its own sowing and harvesting cycle. Eating seasonally not only ensures the best-quality produce, it also helps maintain our body’s yin and yang balance, according to TCM. The Seasonal Eats series on beijingkids introduces foods best eaten this month.
Photos: chodta and Heley GR (Flickr), courtesy of Nanjing Impressions, and Clemence Jiang