How I miss Vietnamese pickled mustard greens

When I started leaving home to study abroad and then moving to Singapore with my husband, I knew that I would miss some parts of Vietnamese food in my country. Surprisingly, those parts are not the big dishes, but the very small side dish that we could have in every simple meal back home. That’s the pickled mustard greens. When I was at home, I always just looked at the process when my Mom did it. I thought it’s easy and I’ll never make it. And now, living abroad is giving me a good chance to practice.

Vietnamese pickled mustard greens (Dua cai chua)

Buying pickled mustard greens is easy but expensive and the store-bought one is more suitable for making a soup. If you want to have the pickled mustard green as a side dish like coleslaw or some kinds of salad, you’d better make by yourself. Homemade pickled mustard greens are always good and taste better for me.

Vietnamese people have a unique way to eat and enjoy the pickled mustard greens. My dad love eating this dish just only after 1 or 2 days of making it, when mustard greens start to soak with salt and sugar, not sour but a little bitter and crunchy. I personally like the sour taste of pickled mustard greens. After about a week, when there’s only a little left and the pickles are way too sour, my mom would cook soup or stir-fry. Wow, how I miss all those simple dishes! I’ll walk you through the process to make the pickles first in this entry and gradually I’ll introduce other dishes made from them later.

1. Ingredients:

  • 2 big mustard greens (Please look at photo #1 to choose the right type of mustard greens)
  • 4 stalks green onion
  • 3 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1.5 liter cold water (You should boil water , then let it cool to room temperature)

2. Process:

  • First, you should “hang” the mustard greens to make them dehydrate a little bit (at least in one day). My Mom told me that if we do like this, the pickled mustard greens will absorb the salt, and sugar faster, and so the process will be faster to get the sour taste. Moreover, this step will make the pickled mustard greens crunchier.

That’s how I “hang” the mustard greens

  • Clean and chop the green onion and dehydrated green mustards into 1 inch long pieces (2.5 cm).  Mix them together and set aside. Green onion is important because it make the pickled mustard greens smell better and prevent them from being spoilt.
  • For the brine: Actually my Mom always says she just did this with her feelings. Put a little bit of salt, then a little bit of sugar into the water, until she felt the taste of the water is somehow sweet and salty. This also the way Vietnamese people cook. We don’t really follow any recipe :D
    • Add salt and sugar to the water and taste the mixture again. Please try this recipe and you can then adjust a little bit next time. It’s important to boil the water and to cool it down to room temperature because this way, as my mom said, will kill all the “bacteria” and assure that the green mustard will not be spoilt.
    • Salt helps the green mustards become sour, and sugar helps them look golden brown and crunchy.

Prepare green onion, mustard greens and the brine

  • Pack tightly all the mixture of green onion and mustard greens into a clean glass jar (you can also use a ceramic jar) (Please note that it’s important to pack tightly). Then pour the brine over the jar and make sure that the water covers all the greens.
  • Cover tightly and leave it at room temperature. Check the jar the next day. There would be a reaction between the greens (the excess water that is not dehydrated yet) and salt or sugar, which increases the amount of water in the jar. You would want to take them out and just make sure that the greens are submerged.

Pack the greens tightly and pour in the brine to make them submerge

  • If you leave the jar outside (at room temperature), the pickle is done after 2 or 3 days, depending on if the weather is hot or warm or cold. If you want to reserve, you can put the jar into the fridge and keep  it up to one month or so.

The final dish after 2 or 3 days of making – Delicious Vietnamese pickled mustard ^^

That’s it! It’s simple, easy but more important, it’s very delicious. In Vietnamese meal, pickled green mustards sometimes are just the side dish, but it makes other main dishes more delicious and inviting. Especially for people who are not living in Vietnam like me, I can understand how important the pickled green mustards are to Vietnamese cuisine.

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