chinese treats from the north

August 1, 2007 at 12:09 am 43 comments

stir-fried potato shreds

I used to have a flatmate who came from Beijing, and this is a dish that she made for me once that I immediately fell in love with. It’s a popular northern Chinese dish of shredded potatoes with chilli and vinegar, and from what I can glean from the internet, it’s original name is qing jiao tu dou si (青椒土豆丝), or ‘green chilli potato shreds’. It was nothing like I’d ever eaten before – a testament to the vast differences between northern and southern Chinese cuisine (the latter of which I am more familiar with, having lived/living in Hong Kong). The potatoes are shredded finely (a skill in itself) and quickly stir-fried with hot chillies, splashes of vinegar (usually Chinese black rice vinegar), and seasoned with soy sauce. It’s cooked very quickly so that the potatoes still retain a crunch; this was definitely a strange experience at first, having only eaten potatoes in their starchy softness, in the form of mashed potatoes and chips. But it definitely works – it’s refreshing and the texture resembles the radish, somewhat. It’s difficult to liken it to anything, really.

I’ve converted quite a few people onto this dish, and it’s easy to see why. It’s simple, yet novel (for us ignorant people not familiar with northern Chinese cuisine anyway!). It’s light and tasty – spicy, sour, and savoury all at once. And it’s incredibly easy to make – the most grueling part is just slicing the potato meticulously into thin shreds, something you will undoubtedly get used to. I usually only quickly stir-fry the potato for about 5-6 minutes, just until the starch of the potato comes out and the liquid in the wok (from the soy sauce, vinegar, and any water in the potato) starts to thicken.

Potato shreds with chilli and vinegar
Serves 1-2
1 medium potato, peeled (avoid floury potatoes)
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I’m just a garlic fiend!)
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
pinch of sugar
1 spring onion, chopped

1. Prepare the potato by cutting it in half lengthways. Place each half flat side down, and slice each thinly (3-4mm, if you can manage, the thinner the better!). For every 4-5 slices, lay flat and slice again lengthways, to create long matchstick-like pieces. Leave to soak in a large bowl of cold water to prevent the potatoes from going black.
2. Heat the sesame oil in a non-stick wok, and add the garlic and chilli. Saute for about a minute. Note: You can leave out the chilli at this stage if you want a really spicy flavour, and add them in the final stages of cooking. I tend to add them at this stage because I’m a wuss and can’t take the heat of the chilli and so cook most of it out! I know, defeating the purpose…
3. Meanwhile, drain the potatoes in a colander. Add to the wok and quickly stir fry for another minute. Add the rice vinegar, soy sauce and sugar. Keep tossing the potatoes for another 4-5 minutes until you start to see the liquid in the pan thicken.
4. Add the chopped spring onions, toss once more to mix in, and serve.

So what’s the best dish you’ve ever learned from a friend? :)


Entry filed under: beijing, chinese, northern chinese, potato, recipe.

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43 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Eric  |  August 1, 2007 at 5:48 am

    Never learned anything, I’m kitchen-challenged.

    Have you tried sweet potato fries!? I love them, yet I’ve only had them twice, which is way too little. They’re so good!

  • 2. supercharz  |  August 1, 2007 at 11:36 am

    I have to admit that I have a weird dislike for foods that look like they should be savoury but taste sweet… like yams/sweet potato, butternut squash… :S so nope, never tried!

  • 3. mr. eric  |  August 1, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    Haha, I didn’t like those either when I was younger, but I enjoy them now! Maybe you will too!?

  • 4. Su-Lin  |  August 3, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    This looks great – I’ve never had potato that was still crunchy and I know that the Japanese also have a crunchy raw potato salad. I’m going to have to try this!

    Best recipe from a friend? My very first college roommate was Italian and she taught me a recipe for tiramisu and introduced me to moka coffee. I never made tiramisu but moka pots are still my preferred method of making coffee at home!

  • 5. supercharz  |  August 3, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    eric – that’s true, i never used to like pickles… but now i’ll eat pickled anything (except beetroot, ew). apparently your taste buds change every 7 years or so?

    su-lin – it’s realllllly good and moreish! and interesting :)
    i’d really like to make a tiramisu too… any handy tips? moka coffee sounds interesting.. i’m going to check that out!

  • 6. Prince Roy  |  August 6, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    looks good, but try mine!

  • 7. Sabs  |  August 8, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    OMG, I LOVE THIS! I fell in love with these potato strips when I went to china, then finally decided to look for a recipe…I must cook them now! Thank you :) x

  • 8. Around the Web « Tamarind and Thyme  |  August 16, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    […] Over at Tasty Treats, there’s a good-looking recipe for a northern Chinese stir-fried dish of julienned potato with chili and vinegar. […]

  • 9. Kate  |  September 16, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    Thank you sooooooooo much for this recipe, I have been searching the net for 2 days, trying different translations when I finally stumbled upon your site. Now I can feel like I’m back in China, or at least eat like it.

    Thanks a million

  • 10. Rebecca  |  November 29, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    I’ve lived in Chengdu and Shenyang…now in Taipei. Sichuan and Dongbei both have varying flavors of tu dou si, but I have yet to find it in a local restaurant here! Thanks for your recipe. I’ll just have to cook at home to eat my favorite mainland foods!!!

  • 11. walkinvisible  |  April 26, 2008 at 7:05 am

    in a restaurant in beijing, the english translation was “acid with hot potato” so i thought it would be hilarious to try…. and WOW…. ever so good.

    i’ll try this out. thanks for the recipe !!

  • 12. Ericka  |  May 25, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Thank you for posting this recipe! I had some chinese friends that would give me whole cartons of this stuff, and have also tasted it when i worked as a sushi chef in a japanese/chinese/thai restaurant. Only, it wasn’t on the menu there. The executive chef would only make it after the restaurant had closed for servers and cooks. I have been looking everywhere for the recipe ever since. You’re a lifesaver!


  • 13. Charmaine  |  May 27, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    I’m glad so many of you have found this post useful! :-)

  • 14. sail2xtc  |  July 14, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    THANKS! I had these when I was in Beijing last year and have been craving them ever since.

  • 15. nean  |  January 22, 2009 at 10:38 am

    has anyone got one for a recipe which doesn’t seem to use soy or dark vinegar, but white vinegar and the texture is almost like raw potato? i’ve tried the trying to cook them slightly and they always end up mushy.

    we had it for dinner tonight and it was soooo great. not sure whether it’s a beijing dish, or further north

  • 16. Charmaine  |  January 22, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    nean – there are no hard or fast rules, and you can most certainly use white vinegar – in fact it’s what i’ve used when i haven’t had zhenjiang vinegar to hand. It’s just as good. The key, as I wrote above, is to not let it cook too long and to use the right type of potato. From my knowledge and the comments left in this post, it does seem to be ubiquitous in Beijing, but it could have origins further north… who knows!

  • 17. nean  |  January 23, 2009 at 8:15 am

    thanks. maybe i’ll try just a really quick cooking time and see if it’s similar

    i guess everyone has the way their mum taught them, a little bit like finger prints. no two are alike.

  • 18. Review: Northern Dumpling Kitchen | Pai Gu  |  June 9, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    […] and light fried tofu, clearly made in-house, but could have used more vermicelli. Next came the tu dou si, potato strands in chili oil, which was lacking in salt and altogether undercooked (they felt wet […]

  • 19. Dweller  |  August 26, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks a lot for the recipe! I was searching for it quite some time!

    I also added a little grind ginger while stir-frying ( a little less than 1/4 tbsp), that also gave a nice flavor;)

  • […] bag. A Chinese friend taught me how to make the potatoes last year, and Charmaine’s wonderful recipe was a great refresher on how to prepare them. They came out tasting just like I remembered: […]

  • […] my shredded potato suggestion was heralded a success and now I’m eager to make my own from a recipe Su-lin/Tamarind and Thyme linked to long […]

  • 22. sarah  |  July 18, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    can you eat this dish cold?

  • 23. Sophia  |  December 2, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I made this last night for my mum and my brother and they loved it ! I used 2 potatoes and just doubled up the ingredients you mentioned. Thanks so much for this recipe! :)

  • 24. Chloe  |  January 11, 2011 at 12:41 am

    I spent four months in China, mostly in Xi’an but a while in Beijing and a few other areas. This was one of my very favorite dishes while I was there, and it was easy to find at almost any restaurant!! I’ve been craving it for a while, so I was very excited when I found this!!

    It’s a great recipe, but personally the stuff in China seemed to have less soy sauce and more vinegar… there was also some type of dried pepper in it when I ate it in China, but I haven’t been able to identify it. Any idea what this is?

    Thanks for the recipe!!!

  • 25. Lien  |  January 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing this – I’ve been trying to find the recipe for a while already…
    your recipe is the only one with exact dosages of ingredients which is great!!

    thanks again.

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  • 39. Paolo  |  June 9, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    :) I read this with a smile!
    The same happened to me this summer.. I was in vacation and I met 2 chinese girls: they taught me to cook these potatoes and to do dumplings.. :)

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A freelance journalist and full-time gourmand, eating her way mostly through London and Hong Kong.

Current location: London


Charmaine currently digs: the smell of coffee; adding ponzu to everything; bill granger; still eating natto with every meal; caressing her Nikon FM2n.



August 2007
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