Raw and rich

I’ve enjoyed eating out a few too many times these past weeks, so last Saturday lunch became a great chance to put fresh vegetables at the forefront of my meal. I visited the Veggie Lady on Urumqi Lu near Anfu Lu to choose their (they are really two fabulous food ladies) freshest vegetables on offer. My plan was to prepare a plate full of raw sliced veg to eat with a dip of green herby anchovy sauce, inspired by a recipe I saw Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall whip up on episode of River Cafe Everyday. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate the freshest of fresh vegetables. The sauce is piquant, spicy, salty and unctuous. Surprisingly filling, it certainly serves as a very sustaining lunch, perfect for a lunchbox and I plan to present this as a serve-yourself entree at my next dinner party. I think it’s a great way to entice others to the beauty, freshness and crunch of raw produce. It’s also enjoyably hard to understand why the flavours are just so rich.

Although not in this format, Chinese cuisine does include raw vegetables.Liangcai are cold dishes served at the beginning of the meal; entrees that give a fresh crunch and come out of the kitchen quickly to keep one occupied whilst waiting for hot dishes. Variations include finely sliced carrot with tofu, sliced balsam pear, grated radish or (my favourite) mint leaves, each served with it’s own special dressing.

Saturday morning is a fabulous time to visit the Veggie Lady (otherwise knows as the Avocado Lady). Being early in the weekend they get an overwhelming amount of business, so they are stocked to the brim. Not everything is organic – when I ask if this or that is organic, I’ve had the response ‘bijiao youji‘ (rather organic – what does that mean?) – but all is very fresh. They appear to have a high turnover of produce and I trust that eating a range of produce from here is a safe option.

Looking around I chose fennel, mushroom, beetroot, zucchini, radish and broccoli. The broccoli was firm and fresh; radishes fragrant; mushrooms clean and white; zucchini gleaming and, beets firm.

Fresh raw vegetables with anchovy dip

To replicate, choose whatever vegetables are freshest. Wash thoroughly and slice into easily manageable pieces for finger picking – not too chunky. Carrots, any kind of mushroom, asparagus, celery, crisp radicchio would all be great.
great anchovy substitute for vegetarians might be those homemade pickled vegetables that you can find in wet markets across China. Any other ideas?

For anchovy dressing:

Anchovies, 1 can of 100g with its oil
1 clove of garlic
1/2 small red chilli
large handful of parsley
2 twigs of rosemary
1 teaspoon of mustard (I used Dijon)
A slosh of white wine vinegar
Black pepper
2 generous sloshes of olive oil

Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Add more oil and vinegar if too dry. Pour into a bowl and serve together with the fresh vegetables.
Dip and enjoy.