Personally, I believe that picked mustard cabbage is one of the most liked dishes in Vietnam, and is the one that us students who study abroad miss the most, simply because the crunchy texture and the acidic taste of the picked mustard greens is very addictive. Pickled mustard greens can be served as a side dish to rich tasting dishes like caramelized braised pork, it can also be used to make new dishes like crispy skin pork stir-fry, or to make soup with ribs or beef shank when the weather is chilly (I always eagerly wait until the pickled cabbage is very sour to make it into a soup )
Pickling cabbage is not difficult at all, really. The ingredients for the brine are simple (water, sugar and salt is something everyone has in their kitchen), and the process is simple as well, so let’s dive in a pickle some mustard cabbage, shall we?
Công thức tiếng Việt: Dưa cải muối chua
* Ingredients & Tools:
- 2 mustard cabbages (you can find these in Asian supermarkets, the French name is moutarde brune or moutarde chinoise)
- 1 bunch of spring onion (8-9 stalks)
- Kosher salt
- A container (use a glass or porcelain container, don’t use plastic)
- Something to weight down the cabbage (I usually use a small plate, you can also use a bamboo chopsticks)
1. In order for the pickled cabbage to have a crunchy texture, we usually wilt in by putting under the sun. However in cold places like France, waiting for the sun is not a very practical thing to do.
The simplest method that I usually use is to put the cabbage on top of the heater. The heater at my house has a small porcelain plank on top, so all I have to do is wipe it, put a clean tea towel on it and place the cabbage on top, the cabbage is wilted enough after 1 day – 1 day and a half, depends on the temperature of the heater. You don’t have to wilt the cabbage too much since it can be chewy when pickled.
Another way that I know to wilt the cabbage, if you don’t have a plank on top of the heater, is to pass the cabbage through boiling water for 5-10 seconds, and then let it dry at room temperature for a day.
2. After the cabbaged is wilted, chop off the root, separate the leaves and rinse them under water. Try to not bruise the leaves since it can ruin the pickle later on. Drain well then cut the cabbage leaves to bite-size pieces. Chop off the roots of the spring onion, rinse and cut into 3-4cm pieces, quarter the white part.
3. Prepare the brine with this ratio 1 water : 40g salt : 10g sugar. Since it’s cold here I usually boil the water to dissolve the salt and sugar, then let it cool down until it’s just warm to the touch. Arrange the cabbage and spring onion into the container, then pour the brine in until it covers the cabbage. At first it might seems like you have too much cabbage, but if you wait for 5-7 minutes for the salt to draw out water from the cabbage it will reduce in volume, and you will be able to press the cabbage down with the weight.
4. Put the container in a warm place (I put it on top of my heater), the pickle will be ready in 2-3 days (or a week if the weather is cold). The mustard cabbage is ready when the brine and the leaves turn a green-yellow color and has a slightly sour taste.
1. You should always use a pair of clean chopsticks to take the cabbage out to eat or to cook, a dirty pair can contaminate and ruin the pickle.
2. When the cabbage is sour enough, you should put it in the refrigerator so it doesn’t get too sour too fast.
3. You can try adding a teaspoon of rice or apple cider vinegar to speed up the pickling process.
4. Different brands of salt can have different saltiness level, so y ratio is more for reference than a fixed recipe. You should taste the brine when preparing, the brine should be a bit on the “too salty” side (not as salty as sea water but should be more salty than your pasta water).