This is a lawless dish and it all started because granny wanted to “recycle food” from leftovers . Having said that, this is a dish that is never cooked by my late mum but it was always cooked by wife’s Hakka auntie. Our families cooked leftover with mei cai but never mustard head.
I am unsure about the origin of the dish or the dialect associated with this dish. My wife taught me this dish and I find that I myself like it too. It is tangy and appetizing with slight spiciness.
It is quite impossible to give an exact recipe for this dish but those who are interested to cook this dish shall use this recipe as a reference guide and adjust along the way . An exact recipe cannot be provided as it will depend on the size of the wok, the type of leftover meats you have and the type of vegetables that your family likes to eat.
In addition, it will also very much depends on the degree of tanginess and spiciness that you are looking for..
As for the meat, i have ever used : leftover roast pork, roast duck, roast chicken, or braised pig head meat and even fresh meat if i seriously craving for it.. Therefore, you have a lot of variants and in this illustration, i have used roast pork, roast duck and braised pork.
For the vegetables, there is a unique vegetable that must be included : mustard head as in the picture above. This vegetable is a bit bitter but with this way of cooking, the bitterness is not obvious. I usually added other vegetables such as bitter gourd, carrots, mushrooms and radish can be added as well. A bit more or less of each type of vegetable is acceptable and it depends on what you like to eat.
Beside the vegetables and the meat, the dish is usually sour and the tanginess comes from this the unique “assam kulit” or tamarind peel as in the above picture. Well, if you cannot get hold of these tamarind peels, you can always used tamarind paste . In my case, I will not cook the dish until very sour as kids will not like it. I will adjust the tanginess just before serving by adding vinegar into another bowl.. Dried chilli is usually added for the taste and the spiciness but when kids are not eating, I always used chilli padi for the dish.
Unlike other recipes that required sautéing of ginger, ginger, meat etc. , I have bypassed this step as I have cooked many times, there is no effect of sautéing these herbs for this long stewed strong flavoured dish. It will all masked by the meaty taste and the spiciness of the dish. In addition, I do not want my dish to be overly oily therefore I by passed the sautéing. Of course readers can also add another step if they insisted.
I am unsure whether I should tell you this or not. I have been cooking mustard head and I discovered 8 out of 10 times, there bound to have one worm sitting comfortably in the core of the vegetables. You will not uncover if you do not pluck the vegetables until the very last smallest leaves. It happens many times, most will have one , and only appear in this vegetable. Therefore, make sure that when you wash this vegetable, wash diligently until the last leaf or throw away the cores..
WHAT IS REQUIRED
Servings: 6-8 adults servings
- 1 kg of meat of your choice ( I used more with a mix of roast pork, pig ear and deboned roast duck)
- 1 kg of mustard head vegetables (washed and cut into big chunks)
- 10 shitake mushrooms (dried and soaked or fresh, sliced into 1/2 or 1/4)
- 1 medium size bitter gourd (cut into small chunks)
- 1 carrot , cut into small chunks
- 3 tomatoes, cut into quarter sizes
- 15 dried chillies, soaked until soft
- 100 grams of ginger, sliced thickly
- 3 bulbs of garlic, clean with skin on
- 20 pieces of assam gelugor or assam skin, soaked
- 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons of caramelized dark soya sauce
- 1 tablespoon of light soya sauce
- Salt to taste
STEPS OF PREPARATION
- In a pot, started with 2 cups of water, put the garlic bub, ginger slices, assam skin and dried chilli. Follow by all other ingredients except the tomatoes which have different cooking time. The water added shall not cover all the ingredients as vegetable juices will be secreted when cooked. Therefore, it only cover half of the ingredients and you can add water gradually. Depending on your needs, you can also sauté the garlic, ginger slices and dried chilli with a few tablespoons of oil before adding the water.
- Add in the seasoning and bring to boil. Once it boils, reduce to heat to medium and let it simmer until soft. It is imperative that you monitor the boiling and do constant tasting of the dish. If the juices dries up too fast, add more water. If it not sour enough, you can add vinegar or more assam keping. Not spicy enough, add chilli padi etc.. I do the adjustment along the cooking.
- Cook until the vegetable met your desired texture. You can then add the tomatoes before off the heat. Let the cooked vegetable rest in the pot for 3-4 hours before serving for flavour to develop.
This recipe is a guideline and as I discussed above, you have to adjust the taste along the way. The deliciousness of the dish basically very much depends from the type of meat you used complemented by the tanginess and spiciness of the vegetables. Feel free to adjust to those that suit your taste bud. If you do not have any cooked meat, you can still use fresh pork belly or pork ribs for the dish but this has already defeated the origin of this dish. I am unsure but I will boldly classify this as a Hakka cuisine. In fact, Taiwanese Hakka cuisine has such a dish though it may not be spicy and tangy like we have here.
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