Monday, December 1, 2008
Chinese Preserved (Salted) Mustard Vegetable Stir Fry with Eggs
This is one ingredient that brings back memories of my grandmother's kitchen -- the Salted Mustard vegetable, we call Kiam Chay in Fookien Chinese.
There are actually many kinds of Chinese preserved vegetables. Some made of mustard greens, some made from cabbages, some from radish. And then different spices for preserving the vegetables are added, some are pickled in heavy brine, some has lots of chillies added. But one thing is common, they all undergo some kind of fermentation process that preserves the vegetables without need for refrigeration.
My grandma says life in China during her time (she was born in the 1920s) was hard. It was difficult to grow plants as the soil were not rich. They did not have modern technology then. They do not even have refrigerator back then. It is an old Chinese tradition to preserve the vegetables they harvested during the summer for the winter season or for lean months when they do not have food to eat.
Nowadays, we have preserved vegetables not for lean season, but for the taste. I have to admit preserved vegetables may smell a little pungent. What do you expect after the fermentation process? But the taste is something you would be looking for again and again. Specially since this ingredient is connected with good memories of the days in grandma's kitchen.
This salted mustard green is the simplest preserved vegetable to make. Simply add tablespoons of salt to raw whole mustard greens and leave it (covered) to ferment for a few days. When ready to use, simply wash off excess salt, chop to bite-size pieces and it is already ready to eat!
That does sound a little bit crude for the modern generation. What about the germs and other health concerns? Well, grandma would say, simply wash it several times... nobody got sick eating preserved vegetables... :) Maybe science will say that salt preserved the vegetables that no bacteria nor germs can thrive in such environment. But grandma could not explain it that way. She just had years of experience to prove her claim!
Anyway, if you do not want to make your own salted mustard, you can simply purchase some from any Asian groceries. It is a common ingredient and is not expensive.
In its simplest form, these bite sized pieces can simply be viand to a simple bowl of hot steaming congee. Oooohhh! This is the ultimate comfort food for many Chinese!
But if you really want to cook these greens, to be sure your food is totally hygienic, salted mustard greens can be used in a lot of dishes: from soups to stir-fries to flavoring hotpots.
This is one simple stir fry you can do with the preserved greens. With this dish alone, you can eat up a bowl of congee or a plateful of rice :)
1. Wash and chop some salted mustard greens.
2. Chop up garlic and some green onions as well.
3. Beat 2 to 3 eggs well.
4. Heat up some oil in a non-stick pan. Saute garlic until fragrant. Add the chopped salted mustard greens. Stir fry for a while.
5. Add the green onions and eggs soon after. Stir and push the eggs around to get a scrambled style dish. It is done when the eggs are cooked. Serve immediately with congee or rice.
No need to add salt as the preserved vegetables are already salted. However, I love to add dashes of powdered red pepper for some spicy kick. This is entirely optional, of course.
I still have some salted mustard greens left. I was thinking of frying them up with bacon. That is how versatile these salted greens are. Will do another dish and another post on salted greens soon!
Sharing this Chinese traditional dish with the Weekend Herb Blogging Community, where we feature herbs and unique plant ingredients and the dishes we create using these ingredients. WHB is now supervised by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Last Once. This week's host is my dear friend and blogging inpiration - Ivy of Kopiaste. To see last week's delicious dishes, please check out Scott of the Real Epicurean.