My recipe for China Train Pea Greens is essentially pea greens added to my reconstructed recollection of a scape and pork dish I had on a train between Beijing and Ulaanbaatar.
China Train Pea Greens
1 bunch pea greens, chopped or left whole
1 handful garlic scapes, chopped into inch-long sections
1-2 tablespoons butter
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Black pepper, salt, garlic powder; to taste
Bacon (optional, sort of). I keep my bacon frozen and cut it lengthwise off of one end, like slicing a sausage but through the ends of several pieces of frozen bacon at once. Most heavy knives have no problem because the fat prevents bacon from freezing rock hard. It doesn’t take a lot of these little bacon bits, sometimes called lardons, to make a difference in a meal. Use a slice of bacon’s worth of lardons for this dish.
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons lime juice
Make train sauce by stirring together the ingredients. Cook the lardons (if using) patiently, until they are crispy, and then remove from pan. Add the oil, butter and scapes, turn the pan to medium, and wait for the glorious fragrance of fresh garlic in the pan to fill the room.
Add the pea sprouts; spread them around so they are evenly distributed, and wait until they flatten down, about 30 seconds. While still bright green, turn the pan to high and add the sauce. Bring to a boil and let the sauce boil 30 seconds, then stir it around and turn it off.
Serve with the carbohydrate of your choice, or unadulterated in all of its savory, tangy green garlicky glory.
When the scapes are gone, the new garlic season will still be young. The same dish can be prepared a few weeks later with new garlic, freshly dug with fleshy wrappers and pearly white cloves that turn translucent as they cook.
This dish can be made with other vegetables besides pea greens. It’s great with broccoli, for example. But some connoisseurs, understandably, want their pea greens, which, remember, can be seeded all summer long. Soak them overnight, and plant in any blank spot, preferably well-watered. If they get big, you aren’t eating enough pea greens.
And finally, a recipe created by my five year-old son Remy. Butter-fried pea green chips, which he enjoys preparing for breakfast and dinner and even midnight snack.
Pea Green Chips
With a heavy pan on lowest setting, melt two tablespoons salted butter. Lay pea shoots in the pan next to each other, taking up the whole pan without crowding them together too much; keep it all one layer. (Remy uses the leaves exclusively, carefully removing them and discarding the stems).
Keep the heat on the lowest setting. Listen to the pea greens sputter peacefully as their moisture cooks out. Let them cook a half-hour or more until crispy. Remy calls it good here, but predictably, I add some form of garlic: scapes, bulbs, even minced leaves if you have them. Let the the garlic cook, and gently mix it with the delicately crunchy pea greens.
Serve on a plate, next to a piece of toast.