Mustard cabbage is a dark, rather bitter leafy thing, which makes it intimidating for those who like their greens mild and Manoa lettuce-like.
But for those who can take its assertiveness, it makes a great addition to soups (oxtail, for example) or stir-fries. Chinese menus, especially, make good use of mustard cabbage, called kai choy. It’s often pickled first, which makes it tangy, sweet and bitter all at once.
Jeanne Yagi wrote for a recipe for the pickled cabbage. She was particularly interested in seeing whether there was one available from local author Leonora Ching, who wrote "The Pickle Lady’s Pickle Passion" (available from www.Pickle-Passion.com for $14.97).
Ching’s recipe follows, along with a second version, my mother’s. For those who don’t feel up to home-pickling, you can buy pickled mustard cabbage in Asian markets or in Chinatown groceries. It comes in a package and is not usually refrigerated. Look for the Chinese name of sin choy.
I’ve also included a classic Chinese dish of sin choy with beef — a stir-fry that’s popular at my house.
Sweet-Sour Chinese Mustard Pickles
2 cups water
2 pounds kai choy (mustard cabbage), in bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon slivered ginger
» Pickling sauce:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Hawaiian salt
Bring water to boil; add cabbage, stirring until cabbage darkens and glistens, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain.
Bring pickling sauce ingredients to boil, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Pour over cabbage. Add ginger. Mix well. Bottle and refrigerate 3 to 5 days before eating.
Pickled Mustard Cabbage
5 cups mustard cabbage, cut in 1-inch pieces
4 cups boiling water
» Pickling sauce:
2 tablespoons Hawaiian salt
2 cups rice vinegar
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons chopped ginger (optional)
Place cabbage in large bowl; cover with boiling water. Stir 1 minute; drain.
Combine sauce ingredients and bring to boil. Pour over cabbage and refrigerate.
Nutritional information unavailable.
Beef with Pickled Mustard Cabbage
1 pound lean sliced beef
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1-inch piece ginger, smashed and minced
1 small onion, sliced
2 cups (1 10-ounce package) sliced pickled mustard cabbage (sin choy), with liquid
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons red wine or whisky
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Combine marinade ingredients and mix with beef. Let sit 30 minutes at room temperature.
Heat oil in skillet. Add ginger and stir-fry until fragrant. Remove beef from marinade, reserving 1/4 cup marinade, and add beef to skillet. Add onions and stir-fry until beef is partly cooked. Add mustard cabbage with liquid from package, plus reserved marinade. Stir-fry until beef is cooked. Thicken with cornstarch mixture. Serves 4.
Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.
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