Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stir-fry Gai Choi With Shiitake Mushroom and Salted Fish

There are several bitter and pungent vegetables that I love to eat like bitter gourd, chicon (Belgian Endive), and Gai Choi/Kua Chai is one of them. I can assure you, is like eating mustard instead of seeds, you're eating the fleshy and thick stems and pungent leaves. I also like wasabi... ☺ According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), bitterness is good for cleansing gallbladder, liver, kidneys, etc.

This Chinese Mustard Cabbage appeared mostly in soups, stir-fries and pickled as salted mustard leaves. The size is very large... sometimes you can find as big as human head! One thing weird about this Mustard Cabbage was it has lots of holes which means ... worms, well, most of the time. I remembered my mom used to remind me to look for wriggles even after the vegetable washed. I don't know why but that's how most Asian people recognised this vegetable. Yep, no joke about it! I'm lucky the piece I bought as pictured here is clear of worms but still with holes here and there on the leaves! That's why is best to soak the leaves longer in water to get rid of this pest and also dirt. Usually, I will soak the leaves in warm water with vinegar for few minutes, rinsed and drained in a colander.

To cook this vegetable is quite easy... For soup, I used a whole head. I easily could finished that amount in one sitting but I tried to constraint myself from doing so ☺. For stir-fries, I usually use about 4 large outter leaves for 2 persons because the leaves emerged smaller as you peel towards the heart of the cabbage. So, you need to adjust the quantity accordingly.

Stir-Fry Gai Choi With Shiitake Mushrooms and Salted Fish
Serves 2-3

2-4 leaves Gai Choi (Chinese Mustard Greens)
4 pcs Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, soaked until soften & drained
10 g - 20 g Salted Fish (any type will do) (optional)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 pc Carrot-julienned
Some Water or Chicken stock, about 1/2 - 1 cup (optional)
Oil for cooking
Salt to taste (optional)

1. Wash the Gai Choi leaves (Chinese Mustard Greens) thoroughly from grits and drained. Cut or tear into bite size pieces. Set aside.
2. Cut the softened Dried Shiitake Mushrooms into strips.
3. Rinse the Salted Fish from excess saltiness. Pat dry with kitchen papers. Sliced into small pieces of 5 cm,
4. Heat a wok/pan with some cooking oil. When pan is really hot, add in the minced garlic. Stir until fragrant.
5. Add in the Salted Fish and fry until it's golden brown and crispy.
6. Then the sliced mushrooms strips and julienned carrot. Stir for a moment.
7. Add in the Gai Choi, stir quickly and add in the Chicken Stock or Water. Let it simmer until the vegetable soften to your liking. * When I'm using salted fish or Chicken stock, I don't add any more salt. Adjust the taste accordingly.
8. Dish out and serve with rice.



  1. I tried washabi only once and OMG Pixen you won't believe how I felt. I wanted to spit it away but I couldn't. My husband an I were at a party and everything was formal with linen napkins, so I had to swallow it and fires were coming out of my eyes, my mouth, my nose, I wanted to scream. There was no water on the table, my eyes were full of tears and I had to wash my mouth with some wine, which I don't usually drink. I don't think I will try it again.

  2. OMG Ivy, I'm so sorry for the bad experience! One of my friends had to swallow his pride when I told him n-o-t to touch the 'green paste' on small dish before I left the table. When I came back, I saw his red sweating face with tears almost oozed out of his eyes! Only way was to hold your breathe, swallow the wasabi and all or drink it down with water, so that you won't have the vapour enter your nasal passage. With practice, you can eat sushi, sashimi or whatever the wasabi was used with and still can taste the flavours of your food!

    I understood your predicament and like my friend, he sworn he won't touch it ever again...but then later on, he did enjoyed having wasabi and even played pranks with his friends. It's just the matter of getting use to it. Also, I always warned my guests if I ever used wasabi in my cooking but it's only if I cooking Japanese Theme, they would automatically prepared themselves :-D

    I really hope you will like wasabi one day :-)

  3. I never thought of cooking Gai Choi as a stir fry vegetable ... always have a knowing of using it to made the dish - Choi Kork (a chinese dish using leftover food and boil with this vegetable with some assam skin and dried chillies)

    You definitely give a new look to Gai Choi.

  4. Oh gosh...I hated these vegetables...ooops, sorry for my way of saying it..ughs!
    I know how TCM goes, the bitter ones are the better ones...especially when you are struck by a bout of heat...but can I still say I hate them:p

    But I do like the idea of stir-fried vegetables though....

    Sorry that I made a comment of hate when I just visited you for the first time.
    That was very rude of me...
    Let's start all over again..

    Hi Pixen, nice to meet you:)

  5. Hi Pixen! You scooped me with this one, I had both mustard cabbage and salt fish on my list of things to do! But with a recipe this simple and delicious, I don't mind at all! :)

    Thanks for your recent support by the way. It really did mean a lot.

    Oh. Just thought of a problem I've been having that you might be able to help with. I have quite a few recipes that use "cabbage root." I vaguely remember it being the root of a type of mustard cabbage with a bulb like this one, but a lot skinnier. But I'm not sure. Do you know the one I mean? Would you know its name (in any language)?

  6. Hi Tom,

    There are several types of mustard greens/leaves. With all the english translations for this oriental mustards of Brassica juncea family ... I'm totally lost in translation :-D I may have tasted the slender version without paying attention to the name. I only ate a bulb like mustard greens similar to Gai Choy is Bao Xin but it's mostly used as salted pickle cabbage. The species used in my recipe is Cai Xanh (Vietnamese). Maybe when we dig further, we will find the root of this confusion :-)

  7. Pixen....forget to inform you that I have changed my url and pls kindly update it, Thank you.


  8. I am wondering if I can use hakusai? Thanks for stopping by = ) "winks"!

    I think I can find most ingredients being here in Japan but shrooms are awfully expensive.. (I'm hoping MIL will send some)! I like all bits of greens, esp the stalks that come with "daikon", I even braise or grill celery leaves...What I do dislike about Japanese food is the high salt content.. I DON'T like salt at all...

  9. Looks delicious, but I have never had salted fish before!

  10. Hi Pixen!!! How are you? Do you think it is okay to use any type of mustard greens? I have not used fish sauce in a long while I usually use shou/miso-

    I can't wait to see your next post = )

  11. Hi GJ,

    You can use Takana or Mizuna also :-) For Mizuna, maybe you can find the mature leaves bcos young Mizuna leaves mostly used in salads. I love Mizuna with my feta cheese instead of regular Arugula aka Roquette.

  12. GJ, you can try mixing Shoyu with Iriko dashi to get the taste of fish sauce. It may not be exactly the same bcos fish sauce is a fermented fish liquid. Iriko has stronger taste than bonito. It may work. You can use patis (Filipino fish sauce) if you can find Filipino shops in your area. Let me know how's the outcome then.

  13. Oh my, you are so helpful!! You are worldly... I love it!! Thank you, I make a note so I can pick them up from the super = )

    yes.. yes dashi.... thank you, thank you..you are such a darling = )

  14. This looks great! I love stir fry and this seems so flavorful. I haven't tried these greens but will definitely do so now.

  15. My mother usually does gai choi with mushrooms too. It seems to counteract the bitterness. Haven't tried it with salted fish though so I'll be telling her about this dish. Thanks!


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