VEGETARIAN MEI CAI KOU ROU (PRESERVED MUSTARD GREENS WITH "PORK BELLY") | 素梅菜扣肉

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One sentimental, soulful stew from my late grandma’s recipe and it deserves my second bowl of rice porridge tonight

The only dish that I missed really badly? It is my late ah poh 阿婆 ( paternal grandma) Preserved Mustard Greens with Pork Belly, 梅菜扣肉. When the saltiness of the stew is tweaked over few decades to a state where our family could easily devour the dish alone, or ladle our second serving of rice porridge from the deep pot, at the corner of the dining table.

Today’s recipe is dedicated to my 101 year old late ah poh. This version of Preserved Mustard Greens she developed is atypical from the Hakka’s method. Steaming the mustard greens for hours took too much time for her even back in the old days. All she did was to soak off the salt from the mustard greens overnight, and slowly simmer them in marinate liquid for less than an hour.

Before she was barely mobile at the age of 95, she passed the ladle to my mother and taught her the cooking process. There was no handwritten recipe, just a few “watch and learn” sessions. Now that I’m living on my own, my mother uphold the tradition and I was taught by the same traditional approach.

This soulful stew has became part of my identity, and I’m going to share a vegetarian version by substituting pork belly with eggplant, or some may be more familiar with brinjal or aubergine. With a smooth and glossy skin, this member of the night shade family bears some resemblance to pork belly skin! When handled right, with a reasonable amount of oil, the eggplant’s texture ranges from tender and creamy, to silky and deep in flavour.

How to handle eggplant?

  • Eggplant is preloaded with water. When it’s full of moisture and cooked at a high temperature, water escapes, and soaks up the oils used when cooking like a sponge. So to prevent using more oil in cooking, we can remove moisture from eggplant by sweating them.

  • Sweating is a process whereby we sprinkle salt over sliced eggplant, let it sit for 15-30 minutes, for salt to draw water out from eggplant. Then rinse and pat dry with kitchen towel before cooking. Do cut eggplant in large chunks as it will shrink in size when most of the moisture is removed.

  • Sweating also tenderises eggplant and cut its bitterness.

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How my grandma handled preserved mustard greens for the right amount of saltiness that never leaves me thirsty.

  • Purchase preserved mustard greens from the asian wet market

  • Submerge mustard greens in bowl of room temperature water, separate the leaves and stem, gently rub off salt in between them and twist them. It’s like doing a little hand washing of your clothes. Drain murky salt water, fill up the bowl and repeat the rubbing process.

  • Rinse mustard greens under running water, submerge them in a deep sauce pot filled with water. Put lid on. Drain and change water every two hours for two times. Leave it out in room temperature overnight. The water should be clearer each time when it has been drained. 

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VEGETARIAN MEI CAI KOU ROU (PRESERVED MUSTARD GREENS WITH PORK BELLY) | 素梅菜扣肉

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Serving: 4

Preparation Time: 40 mins

Cooking Time: 1 hour 10 mins

Difficulty: 5/10

Diet Notes: Vegetarian, Vegan

Cooking Notes:

  • I highly recommend to soaking mustard greens the night before cooking.

  • While slicing preserved mustard greens, separate stems and leaves for cooking

  • Slice eggplant in thick chunks, about 2 cm thickness as it will shrink overtime in the stew

  • Sweat the eggplants before cooking

  • Peel ginger skin by scarping with a teaspoon

  • You may refrigerate the stew for up to two nights. Please be sure to reheat stew and rice porridge till hot before enjoying them at best. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 whole preserved mustard greens, remove bottom and slice remaining in small chunks  (from the wet market)

  • 1 eggplant (1.7kg), slice in thick chunks

  • 1 thumb old ginger (70g), peeled and slice in thick chunks

  • 1 tsp fine salt

  • 4 tbsp olive oil (Naturel)

  • 1.3 litre boiling filtered water

Marinade A

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil, black (Chee Seng)

  • 1½ tbsp thick dark soy sauce (Apple Brand)

  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce (Tai Hua)

  • ½ tsp white pepper

  • 6 cloves, skin on & pounded

Seasoning B

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

  • 2 star anise

Rice Porridge

  • 1 cup fragrance jasmine rice

  • 1.5 litre filtered water

DIRECTIONS

  1. (Prepare this step the night before) Submerge mustard greens in bowl of room temperature water, separate the leaves and stem, and gently rub off salt in between them. Drain murky salt water, fill up the bowl and repeat the rubbing process. Rinse mustard greens under running water, submerge them in a deep sauce pot filled with water. Put lid on. Drain and change water every two hours for two times. Leave it out in room temperature overnight. The water should be clearer each time when it has been drained.  

  2. Sweat the eggplants with 1 tbsp sea salt for 15 minutes. Rinse and pat dry eggplants. Pour marinade A into a bowl of eggplant. Stir and combine evenly. Cover eggplant with a cling foil, or a plate. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or longer for a richer flavour. 

  3. Heat a deep sauce pan with extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat, pour marinated eggplant and liquid into the pot. Sauté for 5 minutes, do not let them burn. Remove only eggplant, leave garlic cloves in the sauce pan. Set aside eggplant.

  4. In the same sauce pan, add ginger slices to garlic cloves. Sauté for 1 minute till lightly browned. Add a handful of mustard green stems in batches and stir fry for 1 minute each time till they turn slightly soft. Then add mustard green leaves, cook for 5 minutes.

  5. Add seasoning B to the mixture and fry for 1 minute. Pour boiling water into the pot, put lid on and let it simmer for 45 minutes under medium heat. Remove lid, add cooked eggplants into the stew, put lid back on and simmer for another 8 minutes until they are tender.

  6. Serve the stew with rice porridge, rice or Asian steamed buns.

DIRECTIONS (FOR RICE PORRIDGE)

  • Soak rice in a bowl of water for 10 minutes to remove arsenic content. Drain rice water, rinse, and rub the rice grains. Fill up a pot with water, and cook rice grains for 18 minutes.

    • Arsenic is a metal element present in soil and water. Both organically- and conventionally-grown crops will contain arsenic. It is inorganic arsenic that is widely considered detrimental to health.

    • Long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic, mainly through drinking-water and food, can lead to chronic arsenic poisoning. Skin lesions and skin cancer are the most characteristic effects. - Source, WHO

Lots of love,

Ally

VEGAN CRISPY BEANCURD ROLLS W TARO | 脆皮芋头素腐皮卷

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Presenting these beancurd rolls in this unpredictable gloomy weather.

Presenting these beancurd rolls in this unpredictable gloomy weather.

Hello November!

In the last few days of October, broad daylight merely lasted till 1pm. Dazzling sun rays were obscured by the murky, menacing dark clouds. It’s an omen for an unproductive day.

Before I finished putting away the groceries and getting ready to cook, the perpetual rain pelted the balcony window. My shoulders dropped. I knew it would be a promising downpour to conclude the entire day.

I was in a gloomy living room, feeling flustered and exhausted, knowing that my plans for the week have to change, and I could not possibly trust the weather forecast app anymore. The only solution left was to prepare these Vegan Cripsy Beancurd Rolls w Taro, refrigerate them overnight and wake up early to photograph them.

On the next day, my eyes were wide opened at 7am. I sprung off the bed immediately to seize the daylight. It was very unlike my usual self haha.

To my utmost relief and content, I dragged out a ripping hot tray of glossy skinned rolls out from the oven. I picked one up, blew off the steam a couple of times and took a first bite.

“Crack!”

The skin crackled in my mouth and I almost scalded my tongue. “Hurrr…hot”!

My impulse to munch was worth it🤭. Shortly after, I started snapping them as swift as I could!

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You may have seen these beancurd rolls in a dim sum restaurant, where they are stuffed with shrimp’s paste, and diced shrimps. But this version of mine comprises of Lion’s Mane mushroom for the meaty texture, and also kelp for a hint of fishy-ness (in a good way)! It is also the first vegetarian/vegan dim sum I made so that Ryan can savour too:D

I always believe in less oily food =less guilt and disgust.

Unlike the commercial crispy deep fried beancurd rolls, I drizzle some good quality extra virgin olive oil over the rolls before popping them into the oven. You get the same quality of crisp and texture, but not a pair of greasy lips!

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What are Lion’s Mane mushrooms?

  • Lion’s Mane Mushrooms are also known as Monkey’s Head mushroom (猴头菇) in Chinese or Yamabushitake in Japanese.

  • They are reputed natural nootropics, with medical properties commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

  • Given their white, shaggy appearance that may seem dubious, they taste very similar to meat and seafood for its firm, and springy texture. They are widely used in Asian curries, stir-fry, rendang or even dim sum to serve the vegan/vegetarian individuals.

  • You can purchase them in local vegetarian stores!

What are the nutritional benefits?

  • Increase Nerve Growth Factor levels in the human brain, improves cognitive function and memory.

  • Combat Depression and Anxiety. Lion’s Mane compound helps to decrease inflammation. Inflammation plays a significant role in depression.

  • Improves cardiovascular health and metabolism. Lion’s Mane is thought to reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and increase HDL cholesterol.

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VEGAN CRISPY BEANCURD ROLLS (Makes 12 pcs)

VEGAN | GLUTEN-FREE

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 1hr 15 mins 

Ingredients

Dipping sauce

  • 4 tbsp Sriracha chilli

  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Preparation 

  • Thaw lion’s mane mushrooms and soak them in a boil of hot water to remove excess oil (if they are marinated in a pack).

  • Use a cleaver, chop both ends of taro head. Take a piece of kitchen towel to hold on to taro while peeling skin off with a vegetable peeler. Alternatively, you can also wear a disposable kitchen glove. Any skin contact with taro flesh may cause skin irritation and itchiness.

  • Chop taro into half, and slice them into 8 pieces, about 2 cm thickness.

  • Soak both sides of beancurd sheets in a bowl of warm water for 5 seconds to remove excess salt. 

  • Whisk together ingredients of the dipping sauce, set aside. 

To cook the filling

  • Boil 500ml water in a steamer over medium high heat, lay taro slices on a steamer tray. Put lid on and steam for 25 minutes till soft. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool.

  • Peel skin off garlic cloves. Drain the mushrooms, give them a quick rinse, and dice them separately. 

  • Heat a non stick frying pan over medium heat, add 2 tbsp olive oil and cook garlic for 2 minutes till lightly browned. Add lion’s mane mushroom, and dried kelp strips. Toss and mix for 5 minutes till kelp bulbs expand and soften. Add toasted sesame oil and white pepper, and combine the ingredients for 2 minutes till fragrant. 

  • Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl. Add taro slices, and mash them with a potato masher to combine evenly. Taste, and season with more pepper till desired. 

To assemble beancurd roll

  • Lay out a moist beancurd sheet on your work surface. Add 1½ tbsp of filling on the edge of the sheet closest to you.

  • Gently pull away the edge of the sheet from work surface and roll over the filling.

  • Tuck the filling tight, use your fingers to press both sides to secure and shape the roll. 

  • Fold in the sides, and continue to roll. Dab more water on the beancurd sheet to make them stick. 

  • Take a seaweed strip, dab both ends with water, and wrap over the beancurd roll. 

To cook the beancurd rolls

  • Preheat oven at 200°C. Lay a baking sheet on a tray, arrange beancurd rolls. Drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil over the rolls.

  • Cook for 20 minutes till golden brown and crispy. 

  • Serve beancurd rolls with spicy dipping sauce. 

Notes

  • You may prepare the beancurd rolls a night before and refrigerate them for extra firmness. 

  • Store these beancurd rolls in an air tight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Or store them in a freezer for up to 5 days.  

  • Slice taro in pieces instead of in chunks. A wider surface area ensures the entire piece is cooked evenly.

  • Insert a fork through the taro slices to check whether they are cooked through

Enjoy! Xx

-Ally