Mustard plants are not the same thing as cabbages but they are very close in terms of appearance, nutrition and popularity. With rice and soybeans, mustard plants and cabbage have been the poor people’s basic diet for many centuries. Preserved with chillies or pickled in brine or sugar, mustard cabbages are eaten throughout the year. When in season and fresh, they can be simply stir-fried with ginger and salt. They are also used in soups, to which they impart flavour and astringency. Young, fresh mustard cabbages are tender throughout and are consumed in their entirety. They are a good source of vitamins and of minerals such as calcium.
Choose mustard cabbage that has firm, broad leaves without discolouration. Avoid limp and tired-looking cabbage. Stems should be firm without holes, which indicate age and a fibrous texture.
Stored in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator, Chinese mustard cabbage should last for at least 5 days.
Cut the mustard cabbage into pieces before washing in several changes of cold water.
© Ken Hom and reproduced with his kind permission.