Local Food

The Chestnut’s Cousin

One of my favorite things about shopping at farmers markets is trying new things. This has been a big part of how I learned to cook. I buy things that catch my eye and figure out what to do with them later.

Here in Hong Kong, I go to Island East Market. While there are a lot of non-farmers hawking their wares as well (baby clothes, jewelry, err..imported olive oil?), I still love going there every Sunday for the fresh, local produce. Yes, you can farm in this concrete jungle of a city!

As with ramps and fiddlehead ferns back in NYC, I get a little sucked into the hype of buying things I don’t particularly need but have a short growing season. I came across this funny-looking thing:


I asked the lady what is was, and she explained it was similar to a chestnut but has a very short growing season so it wouldn’t be available by next week. So obviously I had to buy this unidentifiable nut! I believe she said it’s called “fung ngang guo” but I have no clue how to write that in Chinese and if I even got the right name. Can anyone confirm this? Or know what it’s called in English?

Boiling unidentifiable Hong Kong nut

Following her instructions, I went home and boiled the nuts, which were sticky to the touch, for about 10 minutes.

Peeled unidentifiable Hong Kong nut

After letting them cool, I peeled them and had them as a snack. They were more difficult to peel, but were indeed a lot like chestnuts in texture and taste. Though, these being summer nuts, their taste is more subtle and lighter.

And by the time you read this…these nuts are probably long gone from the market!