The farmers’ markets, ji (集), in Beijing are not like the ones back home in Berkeley. Here there are hundreds of vendors lined up for miles selling produce and almost anything else you might need for the household. I had my shoes repaired there; I picked up cotton fabric and had sheet sets made there. For thousands of years ji has meant a regular gathering for local country people to exchange their goods and purchase their needs. With the expanding city limits of Beijing, new modern residences are now mixed with old villages and supermarkets are gradually taking over the traditional ji. Luckily, there is still a ji right by my neighborhood that takes place three times a week, and I get to enjoy ganji (赶集)—rush to the market—quite often.
Walking along the river in the morning when there is a summer breeze is rather pleasant. We were fortunate to have a day like this in August in Beijing, particularly after a week of long, hot, humid, and rainy days. It was obvious that the cost and the quality of produce this week was quite different from the week before, the price had gone up and the quality had gone down. Well, things are always like this, up and down taking turns in our life. I am old enough to have a very good attitude facing it.
Someone cried “one yuan a pile” from the side on the bridge. I turned around and saw piles of bok choy lying on the ground. The bok choy weren’t long and round with tightly closed leaves like usual, instead the farmer had a huge pile of broken leaves thrown to the side, with only the bok choy hearts put together as a pile. Oh no, this poor man’s bok choy had been badly damaged. He didn’t even bother to weigh his produce and was asking for such a humble price for the still fresh and good part of his bok choy. I felt sorry for him and brought home a bunch happily.
My refrigerator won’t fit such huge bunch of bok choy and there was no way I could kept it fresh in this hot summer weather, so a Gan Shao Bai Cai ( Dry Cooked Bok Choy) was served for lunch, here it is.
Gan Shao Bai Cai
1. Clean and dry the bok choy, throw it into the wok and cook for a few minutes until it dries out.
4. Remove to a clay pot
5. Add some sauce from the bottom of a bottle of Chinese fermented tofu (try to finish up any leftovers or sauces you have on hand or add soy sauce, sugar, and cooking wine)
6. Cook for twenty minutes and serve
My husband enjoyed this unfamiliar but tasty dish. He couldn’t tell what flavorings were in the bok choy. Of course I wouldn’t tell him the top secret of my kitchen either.