Dưa cải chua or pickled mustard greens is a classic accompaniment for a typical Vietnamese meal. My house always has a jar of pickled mustard greens readily available during any season. Mustard greens are pickled in a simple vinegar brine. This process softens the tough stems, reduces the bitterness and infuses a salty and sweet taste to the greens. The pickles are slightly addictive and can be use as a basis for other dishes as well. This is my mother’s recipe for her delicious dưa cải chua.
1 large bunch of mustard greens (approximately 1.5 lb)
7 pearl onions, peeled
8-9 red Thai chili
2 tablespoons of sugar
½ tablespoon of rock sugar
1 tablespoon of sea salt
4 cups of warm water
Combine sugar, rock sugar, salt and warm water in a mixing bowl. Stir to incorporate the ingredients. (You may need to make more brine depending on the size of your jar. The brine should cover all of the mustard greens.)
Cut the bottom portion of the stem and discard them.
In a large bowl, rinse the mustard greens in warm water to wilt the leaves. Rinse each leaf thoroughly and at least 3x to remove any dirt.
Heat a pot of water until it almost reaches the boiling point. Mix this hot water with hot tap water in equal portion in a large bowl and add the mustard greens. Let the greens soak in the hot water for 15 minutes. The purpose is to wilt the leaves further but not to cook them.
Cut each stem into smaller pieces, approximately 1/2 inch each.
Cut the leaves in a bigger proportion since the leaves are thinner than the stems.
In a large jar (approximately 64 oz), add the mustard greens, the pearl onions and a whole Thai chili. Fill the jar with the pickling brine and leave the jar in a sunny spot for 4 days. If the weather is cold and rainy, it will take approximately 7 days for the mustard greens to be pickled.
This is the comparison between a newly made jar and the jar after a few days. Squeeze out any excess pickling juice from the greens before serving.
Pickled mustard green is especially delicious served with boiled pork belly, rice and fish sauce.
Another popular use for pickled mustard greens is to use the greens as a basis for a salty and sweet soup or to braise with meat. Check out our recipe for braised duck with pickled mustard greens – you won’t be dissapointed.