It seems natural that I would go to Vietnam for my next culinary delight. For one thing, one of my favorite restaurants in the local area is a Vietnamese restaurant, and I often seek them out when out of town. But Vietnam also has an outsized meaning to me because the Vietnam War loomed large during my teenage years and into my early twenties. I served in the combat zone during that time in the U.S. Navy and made two tours of duty there for a total of close to twenty months. And I was there for months after the war ended to help maintain the peace. Sadly, I also lost several of my high school friends in Vietnam.
But those are not the only reasons I'm focusing on Vietnam for this blog posting. There's also the fact that I recently went to a vegetarian pot luck and the theme for that pot luck was Vietnamese food. I created this dish originally for that pot luck and everybody in attendance loved it. So, after a little tweaking, I decided it was ready for the Art of Plant-Based Meal Creation.
Most calories in Vietnam are consumed through rice. In fact, rice makes up 65% of a Vietnamese person's daily calorie intake. But another food that gets eaten a lot in Vietnam is Dua Cai Chua. In English, it would be known as pickled mustard greens. And from the research I've seen, the Vietnamese people love it. As do I, but then again, I'm a sucker for anything pickled and for anything involving mustard greens. I love it when mustard greens are in season because adding a little bit to a salad or a soup really spices it up.
Here, you can see me pickling a 2-gallon jar of mustard greens. That is what the recipe below will make. And then for the second recipe below, I've taken the pickled mustard greens and combined them with marinated soy curls to create an entirely new dish which I'm hoping you will love.
- 2 lbs mustard greens
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 1 medium ginger root, thinly sliced
- 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- Brine (see below)
Cut the mustard greens into bite-size pieces and place into large covered jar (2 gallons) with onions, ginger and garlic mixed in throughout.
Pour in warm brine (see below for making the brine) and ensure that it covers the contents of the jar. Cover the jar and place it in a warm place (window sill works well) and let it sit in order to pickle.
After 24 hours, taste it and continue to taste every 24 hours until the desired taste is achieved. Once the desired taste is achieved, move the jar into the refrigerator.
This should last in the refrigerator for several months.
- 16 cups water
- 4 tbsp salt
- 7 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
Combine ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for approximately 15 minutes. You want to be able to touch the brine without burning yourself but also for it to stay hot. When it reaches that degree of warmth, then it's ready to pour into the jar with the other ingredients.
And that's all there is to it. I have to admit that I haven't found these on the menu at any of the Vietnamese restaurants I've gone to, but they are a staple in Vietnam. And it can be eaten by itself or as part of an overall meal or in a salad or in a soup.
Now to add the pickled mustard greens to the soy curls to create Pickled Mustard Greens and Carrots with Marinated Soy Curls in Vietnamese Brown Rice Noodles or on Black Rice. I've tried this recipe both ways, with the Vietnamese Brown Rice Noodles and with just Black Rice, and I like both equally well. So you can take your choice on what you would want to do.
Other variances include the cinnamon. As I wrote it here, I have used Vietnamese cinnamon. But you
can use Ceylon cinnamon if you prefer. But I think the Vietnamese cinnamon has a stronger flavor. Ceylon cinnamon is more subtle. I would not use regular cinnamon commonly found in grocery stores. Ceylon cinnamon is the healthiest cinnamon that I'm aware of and Vietnamese cinnamon is the most flavorful.
The recipe stated below is based on having it with Vietnamese Brown Rice Noodles.
This recipe makes 4 servings.
- 1/2 bag of Soy Curls marinated in low sodium soy sauce, garlic, minced ginger and mustard seed
- 8 oz. Vietnamese Brown Rice Noodles
- 1/2 lb. Pickled Mustard Greens (see recipe above) -- liquid pressed out and chopped in a food processor
- 1 large Carrot
- 4 Spring Onions, sliced
- 1/4 tsp Anise, ground
- 1/4 tsp Vietnamese Cinnamon, ground
- 1/4 tsp Ginger, ground
- 1/4 tsp Cardamom, ground
- Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth to moisten
- Crushed Peanuts to cover (optional)
24 hours prior -- Soak soy curls per the package directions for at least 10 minutes and then saute, stirring often, with soy sauce, garlic, minced ginger and mustard seeds.
Make noodles per the package directions.
To the soy curls, add pickled mustard greens, carrots and spring onions and heat until warm.
Place noodles in a large serving bowl. Add the soy curl mixture and then add spices and just enough broth to moisten. Toss thoroughly to mix all ingredients.
And that's all there is to it.
J Lanning Smith
January 29, 2017