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Clarissa Wei
Clarissa Wei
Contributor
Clarissa Wei is a senior reporter at Goldthread. She spent the bulk of her career as a freelance journalist and has written for outlets like VICE, CNN, Eater, among others. Clarissa has backpacked to over a dozen provinces in China and was once a volcano hiking guide in Nicaragua.

A New York grocer is rebranding a 60-year-old Taiwanese kitchen staple – the Tatung is ‘like a steam oven on your counter’, she says. Lisa Cheng Smith has compiled a book of recipes that use it, and become its sole US distributor.

You can find the cabbage fermented as kimchi, wrapped around larb or served in warm broth. That speaks to its versatility – it can be steamed, boiled, fried, braised or pickled, one reason why it can be found in nearly every grocery store in the world.

Its potato-like texture makes it an ideal and cheap carb; cooked with just the right amount of heat, you get a cornucopia of tasty dishes. Domesticated in Southeast Asia, taro is considered one of the world’s oldest food crops, with a history of more than 9,000 years.

Some people love the bitter melon, especially when blanched with saltwater; others abhor its flavour. In the proper climate, its fast-growing nature can make it a great edible perennial.

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In Southeast Asia, where the vegetable is most prevalent, it is cooked with chilli, shrimp paste and fermented bean sauce. Early European records note the plant’s extreme productivity; it can grow both on land and in water.