Yu qian (literally meaning left money), or the seeds of elm trees, got the name from its resemblance of coins used in ancient China.
The seeds, often mistakenly considered flowers of elm trees, are found around March and April each year.
Each spring, my mother goes outside with her friends to pick yu qianand use them to cook some dishes.
She often blends the green flower-shaped seeds with a little flour and steam over a strong fire for 10 minutes. After she adds a little sesame oil, crushed spring onion or chili sauce, the seeds become soft and taste fresh.
In the past, people who didn't have enough food ate this dish often.
As living standards improved, dishes made with yu qian were seen less often on the dinner table. But now, people often cook yu qianfor fun.
Here are five dishes made from yu qianthat are easy to make and nice to eat.
Yu qian salad
Wash the fresh yu qianpicked right from the elm trees, and blend with a tea spoon of salt, soy sauce, vinegar, chili oil, crushed spring onion and parsley.
Sweet yu qian salad
Different from the recipe above, the sweet version requires chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and oranges. With a teaspoon of sugar, the salad tends to improve people's appetites.
Stir-fried pork and yu qian
Blend sliced lean pork with salt, yellow rice wine and a little corn flour. Stir the meat with salt, soy sauce, sesame oil first on high for 6-7 minutes, and then add crushed ginger and garlic, yu qianand black fungus. Keep stirring until the meat is fully cooked.
Yu qian soup
Slice a tomato and a peeled orange first. Put yu qian, the sliced tomato and orange in a pot, add enough water and cook for 10 minutes on high. Then add a little sugar to enhance the flavor.
Steamed yu qian
Wash a large bowl of yu qianthoroughly and blend with a tablespoon of flour. Steam blended yu qianon high for 10 minutes. Add some vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and mashed garlic and the dish is done.