The Celery Chinese Kin-Tsai (Qin cai, Kun choi), ‘Apium graveolens’, is one of the most widely grown vegetables in China. The leaves have a strong celery flavor that is essential for Chinese cuisine. In China, Chinese Celery is an ancient vegetable. In 1972, bamboo slips, used to record recipes, were excavated from the Han dynasty tombs. Chinese celery was one of the ingredients on those recipes. The flavor is more robust than American celery. The leaves are generally stir-fried and incorporated into meat and fish dishes. It is also used in soups, stews, and rice dishes.
‘Chinese Celery Kin Tsai’
Smaller, slimmer celery stems than standard varieties, with a very strong celery flavor. It is one of the most commonly grown vegetables in China and is indispensable in soups, stews and stir-fires.
The whole plant is edible and can be added sparingly to salads for a strong celery kick. Quick to harvest – sowing maturity can be as little as ten weeks in good weather. It is very hardy too.
Small with more leaves than stalks, aromatic Chinese celery grows in a rosette stemming from the base of its roots. Fragrant, this ancient Asian vegetable-herb’s hollow thin crispy stems produce delicate wispy leaves. Rarely eaten raw, its flavor is pungent and a bit peppery. Cooking sweetens and tames its taste.
Pungent and peppery, Chinese celery tastes similar to regular celery, only much stronger – it is rarely eaten raw. Toss in stir-fries, fried rice dishes or vegetable sautés. Pair with ham, lamb, chicken, turkey or game entrées. To store, place in a perforated plastic bag; refrigerate. Do not wash until ready to use. To clean, rinse quickly under water. Gently shake off excess water; pat dry.
In days past, Chinese celery leaves were gathered for medicinal uses. Because of the volatile oil it produces, this biennial herb plant was also used as flavoring.
A member of the species Apium graveolens, Chinese celery is a close relative to common green celery. Native to Northern Asia where it grew wild, Ancient Greeks enjoyed Chinese celery as a potherb while the Romans used it in their decorative garlands. Also known as khuen chai, kan-tsai, kin-tsai, kun choy, qin cai and kinchay, today this plant thrives at high elevations in the tropics and in temperate regions. Growing ten to fifteen inches tall, Chinese celery prefers a cool climate and shade when grown in the warm summer season. Fairly cold hardy, the plants require fertile soil and adequate moisture. Slow starting but once established, Chinese celery is ready to cut in about six weeks. Popular in Asian cooking, Thai cuisine favors this type of celery in their flavorful dishes.