Mustard greens are in

Last week, I gave a presentation at the ACCT dinner in San Francisco. They wanted a small taste of a recipe from the book. When I heard 180 people were attending, I turned to one of the easiest recipes in the book, Pickled Mustard Greens (p. 147). I have used this recipe often for book signing events, because it can be made ahead, served cold, and provide a small taste to great many people.

Use broad-stemmed mustard greens for pickles.

The key to the recipe are the mustard greens. The ones used for pickles have big broad leaves and thick wide stems are generally most available in cool weather months. Sometimes they are called dai gai choy. Since they are sold mostly for pickles, sometimes the leaves are trimmed off. The heads and stems may be straight, but are often curved into a semiclosed heart.

Just a week before the dinner, I was surprised to find these greens at the San Mateo Farmers Market where I shop every Saturday. The Hmong farmer was so pleased that I bought six big heads, that she brought them again the following week. She said that although she grows them, she didn’t usually bring them to this market because she didn’t think people would buy them. She also pickles them to eat at home. If you can’t find them at the farmers’ market, most Asian markets carry them in the winter.

This recipe comes from Hawaii resident Margaret Lai who grew up in Tahiti where the Hakka made up the majority of the Chinese population. Her easy pickles have a strong sweet-sour punch and are far crisper than purchased pickles.

Pickled Mustard Greens

Makes 3 to 4 cups

3/4 to 1 1/4 pounds broad-stemmed Chinese mustard greens

2/3 cup rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or table salt

1. Pull apart the mustard greens and separate the stems. Cut the stems and thicker part of the leaves into 1-inch pieces to make 4 to 5 cups. Wash and drain the greens. Reserve leaves for soup or other stir-fries.

2. In a 3- to 4-quart pan over high heat, bring about 1 1/2 quarts water to a boil. Add the mustard greens to the boiling water. Stir to separate. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool.

3. In a bowl, mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the mustard greens. Cover the bowl and let stand at room temperature overnight. Transfer the mixture to a smaller container. Cover and chill until the pickles are yellowish-green and sweet and tangy, 2 to 3 days. Store in refrigerator up to 2 to 3 months.


The Hakka Cookbook at The Wok Shop

Linda, Fah, and Tane, owner of The Wok Shop

The Association of Chinese Cooking Teachers (ACCT) sponsored a party for The Hakka Cookbook at Tane Chan’s, owner of The Wok Shop in San Francisco. Tane was one of the original charter members of this group who started in 1983. I, too, have been president of this group. ACCT originally started to share their expertise about Chinese cooking.  Now, its culinary interest has expanded to include other cuisines across Asia. The group promotes the interest in Asian cuisines through eating, visiting markets, manufacturers, and kitchens.

The Wok Shop is the best place to shop for cooking equipment for Asian cooking. So Tane, who has been in business for more than 40 years, has a legion of loyal customers and good friends. They came to see her, eat, meet me, and buy the book. She provided her lovely home, dim sum, and noodles with JADE Sichuan Peanut Sauce. She also invited a Chinese fortune teller and a dim sum master to demonstrate.  I brought Hakka Pork Sliders. My friend Fah Liong, helped demonstrate a few simple vegetable dishes from the cookbook. We cooked Stir-fried Chinese Lettuce, Garlic, and Black Beans (p. 57), Stir-fried Spinach and Peanuts (p. 56), and Stir-fried Snow Peas and Tofu (p. 48).

Selling and signing books has never been more fun. Thanks Tane!