Friday, August 19, 2011

Chinese Mustard Cabbage with Riblets (Choy Geok)

This dish is the ultimate comfort food with
sweet, salty, sour and spicy flavors.
The mustard cabbage just melts in your mouth!

The direct translation of "Choy Geok" is leftover food.  This will probably be your best-tasting leftovers ever. This dish often makes its way to our dining table while I was growing up especially after every festival where there are plenty of leftovers from big dinner feasts.  There is so much good food during a Chinese festival/celebration that most of us are so stuffed with such an assortment of rich meats especially  roast duck and pork and etc.

Our normal everyday meal consists of fish, chicken, eggs/tofu, clear soup and a wide variety of flash-fried vegetables. I don't really know who invented this dish or how it came into being but I find it very appropriate in terms of cleansing the body and somehow removing the after-taste of rich foods, thus restoring a right balance.  I don't think that I was real crazy about this dish, perhaps my palate was not fully developed.  The mustard cabbage has a pungent, peppery bite and a slightly bitter flavor.  These last 2 years I have grown to love it and now have frequent cravings for it.  It must be good!  My husband has since joined me in my cravings.  

There is no exact measurements for this recipe as a lot depends on the individual taste.  A thing to remember is that the mustard cabbage will shrink about half or a little more from its original volume after cooking so get lots of it.  If you lived closed to a Chinatown you can buy roasted pig's feet and roasted duck necks at a Chinese BBQ shop for the meat portion.  If you don't, then you can easily substitute with a smoked ham hog or turkey leg.  In this recipe I pan-fried some riblets since that was the only thing I had and it turned out to be a good choice.

After searing about 1 pound of riblets in my big soup pot, I close to 10 cups of water. Bring water to a boil and lower to simmer for about 20 minutes.  Add at least 3 dried chillies or as much as you want, 2-3 smashed lemon grass, 4-5 fresh tomatoes, 3 tamarind slices.  Add in the mustard cabbage and make sure there is enough water to cover the vegetables.  Let the cooking begin!  Everything will soften in about an hour.  Season and taste, it should be as salty, as it is as sour, as it is as spicy.  Aim for perfect balance and enjoy with a bowl of hot rice. 

Gai Choy is high in Vitamin A, C, B, iron, zinc, and fiber

Pan-Seared Riblets

 Flavored By :

A Mustard Cabbage Farm in Hawaii