Sunday, October 23, 2011

Home-Preserved Leaf Mustard with Tofu 自制雪菜之雪菜豆干

Remember the Asian Leaf Mustard that I use for stir-frying with noodles? Besides anti-cancer properties, this vegetable is power-packed with benefits - helps in detoxification, improves digestion, reduces excess phlegm in phlegmy coughs, etc. Hmmm...more Asian leaf mustard to come.

If you have ever tried Chinese Noodle Soup with Preserved Mustard Vegetables and Shredded Pork, or 雪菜肉丝面 in Chinese noodle eateries - this preserved mustard vegetable is in fact preserved Asian leaf mustard greens, otherwise known in Mandarin as 雪里红(Xue Li Hong) /雪菜(Xue Cai) - the preserved version of 芥菜(Jie Cai) or Gai Choy.

Now I have set myself TWO difficult challenges. First, to preserve my own leaf mustard. Second, to create a vegetarian dish out of my homemade preserved leaf mustard (it is definitely a relatively easier route (more common too!) to stir-fry the preserved leaf mustard with pork or chicken).

With vegetarian, I need to think further of creating flavors. So let's tackle the more difficult one first.

Preserving Asian Leaf Mustard
Preserving Asian leaf mustard is not difficult. You need salt, the key ingredient (leaf mustard) and a large Ziploc bag. Rinse the vegetable to remove the grits/sand. Break the vegetables at the joint to separate leafy portions and firm stems. Put them into the Ziploc bag. Add generous amounts of salt (Note: you will see the vegetables gradually wilting down when salt is added and this is what you want - the salt removes the moisture from the vegetables). Then seal the bag and roll/squeeze the bag real tight with the vegetables inside. This also removes water-moisture from the vegetables. Also try to remove air from the Ziploc bag by releasing the air once in a while while roll-squeezing. When done, seal up the bag of vegetables and leave in the fridge for at least 24 hrs. Before using, squeeze the vegetables to remove all the remaining moisture (best to remove as much moisture as possible). You will notice that in the salting process - the leaf mustard greens have turned from green to darker green.

"....salting, which draws out water (and bitterness) from the veggies and makes them sweeter (in theory), crunchier (for sure) and more tender (not a contradiction)..." - says Mark Bittman in a recent New York Times column.

The preserved greens are ready for Preserved Leaf Mustard Greens with Crisp Tofu Stir-Fry 清炒雪菜豆干

Preserved Leaf Mustard Greens with Crisp Tofu Stir-Fry 清炒雪菜豆干
Ingredients: preserved mustard greens, thinly sliced; tofu cut into small cubes; [Tofu Seasoning: ground white pepper, red chili flakes]. Refer to photo collage above

Directions: Pan-fry the tofu on cast iron skillet till sides are crisp. Dish out, then toss them thoroughly with tofu seasoning. In a wok/pan, heat up a little oil, aromatize minced ginger, carrots, garlic then add in mustard greens and quickly stir fry on med-high heat for 1 minute. Then add in seasoned tofu and lightly toss with greens. Mix thoroughly. Dish up and serve.

Sharing this with Weekend Herb Blogging #307 hosted at Cafe Lynnylu.

This dish can be enjoyed immediately but it is no harm having it slightly cold too. Rice, porridge, noodles - you name it, you have this stir-fry a perfect accompaniment.

This home-preserved mustard greens is also not overly salty and does not contain other "funny" preservatives (common trademark in store-bought preserved vegetables) such as sulphites/sulphates, benzoate, etc. It complements so well with the lightly seasoned tofu and truly can be a delicious vegetarian dish just using two ingredients, and minimal seasoning.

Of course, there is always the signature Preserved Mustard Greens with Meat. That will be coming up soon. So vegetarian or non-vegetarian versions - I have them all covered for you.

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