1. FRESH LOTUS ROOT
Peel and slice into thin rounds. Blanch or steam briefly to soften, then add to stir-fries or thick, sweet sauces ($1.48 a pound at Dynasty Supermarket, 68 Elizabeth St., nr. Hester St.; 212-966-4943).
2. YOUNG BAMBOO SHOOT
Has the texture of radish when raw; when cooked, it’s like a delicate, meaty artichoke. Peel off the outer leaves and cut into half-moons. Boil or braise until tender. Use in stir-fries or serve as a side dish ($2.99 a pound at Golden Way Market, 11 Market St., nr. E. Broadway; 212-513-7733).
3. YELLOW FUNGUS
Believed to benefit blood circulation. Soaked overnight, it will quadruple in size and take on the taste and texture of a mushroom. Best in chicken or oxtail soup ($33 a pound at Po Wing Hong, 49 Elizabeth St., nr. Canal St.; 212-966-1080).
4. DANG GUI
A chalky nugget shaped like a tiny bird skull, Angelica sinensis root is part of a common Chinese prescription for post-menstrual recovery. Steep the bittersweet herb for fifteen minutes in boiling water. Slice and add to chicken or oxtail soup ($15.50 for 100 grams at Kamwo Herbs, 211 Grand St., nr. Elizabeth St.; 212-966-6370).
5. AMERICAN GINSENG
Ginseng is said to be an immune-system booster and restorative. Steep four or five pieces in a cup of boiling water ($45 to $85 a pound at Lin Sister Herbs, 4 Bowery, nr. Division St.; 212-962-5417).
6. SHI HU
Also known as Dendrobium stems, they’re supposed to improve vision and digestion. Boil, strain, and drink the medicinal-tasting tea ($11.95 for 100 grams at Kamwo Herbs).
7. WATER CHESTNUTS
They’re delicious raw, in salad, or diced in stir-fries ($1.68 for 22 ounces at Dynasty Supermarket).
8. FISH STOMACH LINING
A.k.a. gas bladder. Hard as fiberglass, but a five-minute boil turns it into a thick, non-fishy “steak” with a gummy texture. Chop and add to egg-drop soup ($48 to $58 a pound at Kin Shing Trading Inc.).
9. DRIED BABY WHITEFISH
There’s no need to reconstitute these; just toss them into an omelette for a delicate, surprising depth of flavor ($6 a pound at American Fu Zhou Grocery Inc.).
10. DRIED FISH
Rinse well to remove the salt and add a small amount to a soup or stew; after cooking, the texture becomes chewy ($8 a pound at American Fu Zhou Grocery Inc., 101 E. Broadway, nr. Market St.; 212-385-0658).
11. BITTER MELON
Seed and slice as you would a cucumber, then drop in soups, stews, or garlicky stir-fries for a cooling, bitter kick ($1.29 a pound at Hong Kong Supermarket, 109 E. Broadway, at Pike St.; 212-227-3388).
12. DRIED SHRIMP
Soak overnight, mince, and add sparingly to sautéed bok choy or plain pasta ($9 to $18 a pound at Kin Shing Trading Inc., 133 Mott St., nr. Grand St.; 212-343-8708).