Since I moved from California, a restaurant item that I really miss is xue cai (雪菜）, or salted mustard greens. Xue cai rou si chao fan, xue cai rou si chao nian gao, xue cai rou si tang mian (炒飯，炒年糕，湯麵）…..all of it! For English speakers, that’s salted mustard greens in fried rice, stir-fried rice cakes, and noodle soup (all with some meat, of course). YUMMY.
I forget if it was my mom or grandma who taught me how to make it, but the ingredients are what the title suggests: salt + mustard greens. What kind of mustard greens? Not what Americans call mustard greens, but the Asian version…Da jie cai (大芥菜), or big mustard greens, are the precursor to sour/pickled mustard greens, that stuff you see as a condiment for Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup and in those vacuum-sealed packages for $.99 at Asian stores. Xiao jie cai （小芥菜） (or sometimes labeled xue li hong （雪里紅）), little mustard greens, are what are used to make xue cai.
My grandma was flipping through cookbooks at Eslite in Taiwan, and she shook her head at recipes where the procedure for making xue cai called for rinsing the mustard greens first, then salting. I asked her why, and she responded that back in the day, salting was supposed to be a way to preserve the life of the mustard greens. If you washed the greens first, they wouldn’t keep nearly as well as if you only salted them.
Anyway, if you have salt, a fridge, and some time, you can make xue cai at home!
Salted Mustard Greens
“Little” mustard greens
1) Get a big bowl. In the bowl, sprinkle coarse salt generously, on all the leaves of the mustard greens.
2) Place the bowl with the greens in the refrigerator overnight.
3) The next day, wash and rinse the mustard greens. Squeeze out excess moisture, and set in a colander to further drain liquid.
4) Chop the greens up and cook! Add garlic and protein, and eat with or cook with your carb of choice. Or….keep reading for an impromptu dish I made!
Xue cai dou fu
Salted Mustard Greens with Tofu
Oil- 2 tsp, or enough to barely coat a pan
1/2 lb tofu
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
A few handfuls of salted mustard greens, chopped
1) Cut tofu up into tiny little dice. Blot them dry them with a clean kitchen towel.
2) Heat pan, then add oil. In batches, pan fry tofu until brown; flip and do the same to the other side. Take tofu out.
3) Stir fry garlic on low heat until fragrant, then add the mustard greens and make sure they are heated thoroughly. Add tofu and mix together until everything is evenly hot.