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Fruit, Vegetables and Gourds
Fan Shei or Chinese Sweet Yam
Fan Shei or Chinese sweet yam is a common vegetable in Canton and is available virtually all year round. It is the tuber of a plant harvested when it is 4-inches or longer.
Fan Shei also share similar proportions with potatoes and other yams, being tubular in shape, often with a slight curve.

They actually look and taste like a Suede on the inside. Cooking is also similar, so you could use them as a suede substitute in many dishes.

That stated, they are most often eaten whole after cooking. You will see pictured left one my wife was peeling and eating. There is a thin inner skin which can be eaten or removed to your preference.


The basic way to cook these is to wash them and place in a plain saucepan of water and boil for at least 20 minutes. Larger ones will obviously require longer cooking time.

Recipe 1
Sliced Fan Shei

Taking half a pound of yams, peel and slice them into pieces up to 1/4 inch thick. Add some water to a pan or wok, add the Fan Shei, bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes or longer. Stir occasionally and ensure there there is always water in the pot. Chinese would normally stir these and slightly overcook them, thus encouraging a natural sauce to form. The dish is served with this juice being poured over the top.

This is not a dish which easily lends itself to adding other ingredients, but one such is lengths of celery, which require a similar cooking time.
Image: Fan Shei or Chinese sweet yam - Click to Enlarge

Image: Fan Shei or Chinese sweet yam - Click to Enlarge
Recipe 2
Fan Shei Soup

This is virtually the same recipe as above, except you are cutting the yams into various sized chunks and cooking to serve a soup instead. It can be viewed as an alternative to Pumpkin or Mango Soup, both of which can be cooked in exactly the same way.

This dish is best made in a Chinese Soup Pot (See Utensils for information) or large saucepan. We would usually start with a pound of yams, but whatever quantity you use, know that you cover these with water and then add half as much water again. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer, leave for about 1-hour, checking and stirring occasionally.

Chinese would normally serve this to table in the soup pot as is, by which time there should be a reasonably thick and natural sauce. Whilst this is fine, it can get a bit boring after a bowl full, so what can we do?

Again, adding celery chunks initially works very well, as does adding a colourful array of capsicum peppers ten minutes before serving. However, to make this quite special we usually add see-through slivers of sour orange or grapefruit half way through cooking, which I call 'orlimons'.
Recipe 3
Fan Shei and Fa Hin (Chinese Cockles)

This is an unusual dish is similar to other Cantonese Cockle recipes. I remain unconvinced it would appear on any international menu, but that's as may be.


A splash of cooking oil (1 teaspoon).
1 small and very nasty chilli.
An inch of finely diced fresh wet ginger root.
1 Chinese garlic.
Fan Shei cut into chunks.
1 teaspoon of chicken bouillon
1 rice bowl (or more) of water. I'm not quite sure how big this is, but 1 gill should about do it.
Image: Fa Hin or Chinese Cockles - Click to Enlarge

Cooking Method:
Into the wok with a smidgeon of oil, throw in the sliced ginger and diced chilli. Toss for 30 seconds. Add the Fan Shei and continue to toss for a couple of minutes. Throw in the crushed Chinese garlic, and continue to toss for a further minute. Add the dry chicken bouillon granules, and keep tossing. You may be feeling tossed-off by now, so add a little water and mix thoroughly for 10 seconds. Add the rest of the water and bring back to a simmer. Cover and wait for 5-minutes before deciding to add a little more water and about a pound of washed, fresh cockles - I'm not sure why, but this is what my wife did. Re-cover and leave to simmer for at least 15 minutes.

The dish is cooked once all the cockles have opened, and it is then served as one dish of solids, and a separate dish of murky orange liquid, or 'soup 'as my wife calls it.

I personally hope she never bothers to cook this dish ever again, but I present this recipe because it is very different by virtually all worldwide culinary standards, and because it can be cooked in UK.
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