Chinese mustard greens are among the more distinctive looking and distinctive tasting vegetables in the brassica family. The jade-green stalks are thick and slightly ribbed, and although the flavour isn’t nearly as pungent as the mustard plant from which the tiny seeds, used as a condiment, are harvested, it’s easy to tell they are related.
Known as gai choi in Cantonese, fresh mustard greens should have firm stalks, while the frilly leaves should be perky, not limp. Mustard greens are also salted and/or pickled; if you’ve ever eaten Chiu Chow food, you’re sure to have tasted the pickled mustard greens that are either served as a condiment, stir-fried with meat or simmered into a soup along with pork stomach and lots of white pepper.
The mustardy bitterness of mustard greens makes it a delicious vegetable to cook with fatty meats. In Cantonese cuisine, it’s often stir-fried with laap mei (wind-dried meats) such as laap cheung, yuen cheung (liver sausage) and laap yuk (Chinese bacon). Slice the dried meats (use at least two) into 5mm-thick pieces, then put them into a well-seasoned wok. Place the wok over a medium flame and when the fat in the sausages and bacon starts to render, turn the heat to high and stir-fry to lightly brown the meat. Take the meat from the wok but leave behind most of the fat. Place the wok over a high flame and add a slice or two of peeled ginger and a garlic clove that’s been cut in half. Stir fry for about 30 seconds, then add the mustard greens and a sprinkling of salt. Stir fry for about a minute more then add the sausages and bacon back into the wok. Stir, then add a splash of water, cover the wok with the lid and cook briefly to slightly soften the mustard greens. Uncover the wok, stir again, then transfer the ingredients to a plate and serve immediately.