Monday, April 18, 2011

Dua Chua - Pickled Mustard Greens

Today we visit a staple side dish eaten with many delicious dishes, including the dish planned for tomorrow night. I finally got around to going to renew my passport and that office happens to be right next to Chinatown. In the hour that I waited in line, I could have:

- Headed over to the Hoang Oanh Banh Mi shop and bought some sandwiches.

- Bought my ingredients for dinner tomorrow. 
(I did these things, I just did them an hour later. )

While at the Asian grocery store, I was looking for the mustard greens but I wasn't 100% sure I had picked up the right greens (What? I've only ever really seen them in pickled form...I was 97% sure.) I noticed two old ladies wearing cute old lady hats, chattering to each other in Vietnamese while shuffling about the cramped aisles of the store.  Why not ask someone who would know while taking the opportunity to practice some Vietnamese?

Me: Excuse me. Can I ask Dear Elderly Granny (DEG) a question?
DEG #1 and #2 nod.
Me: Are these the correct vegetables for making Dua Chua?
DEG #1: Yes, those are the right ones.
DEG #2: You need to buy these too. *shoves a bundle of green onions into my hand*
Me: I was going to use white onion.
DEG #1: No, that's not right.
DEG #2: Why don't you just buy the ones that come in the package?
Me: Because I want to make it myself!
DEG #1: Are you by yourself? 
Me gives her a puzzled look.
DEG #1: Are you single?

When I told my wife this story, it turns out we both had different interpretations on this comment. I figured she was wondering why I wasn't asking my wife to either make it for me, or to tell me how to make it. My wife thought that she had a single grand daughter. Oh, how our culture differences show! In the end, I showed them my wedding ring, they laughed and the proceeded to tell me how to make Dua Chua, or at least their versions, which were both different.

Dua Chua
Printable Version

Apr 25, 2011 Edit: I've made a few changes to this recipe, notably use more sugar, and add vinegar. Based on these changes, my comment about an overly salt soup from Ravenous Couple's blog probably isn't what you're looking for anymore.

- 1 lb of Mustard Greens, sliced into about 1-inch  pieces.
- 1 bundle of Green Onions, just the white bottoms, not the green leaves. Leave them whole.
- 1/2 of an onion (or 1-2 shallots), sliced (Optional)
- 4 cups of water
- 3 tbsp salt
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 5 tbsp vinegar

Start on the brine. Boil up some water. Add the salt, sugar and vinegar. These are really just suggested measurements, there needs to be a lot of taste testing. According to Ravenous Couple's Dua Chua, you're looking for an overly salty soup, but I'm pretty sure I got something resembling sea water. Then let it cool.

Put on a second pot of boiling water (separate from the 4 cups) for blanching the greens. Slice the veggies.

Once the water starts boiling, throw the greens and the green onions in. Once they go in, don't leave them in there for too long. Drain them after about 30 seconds or about as long as it takes to snap a few pictures.

Mix in the sliced onion, and put it all into an air tight container. Pour the brine in. 

I learned a trick from watching Uyen Thi make Dua Chua where she puts some water into a zip lock bag and stuffs it into the top of the jar. This is because as they are pickling, they'll start to rise and the bag will keep them down. She also mentions using a bowl and now I remember my mom putting in the jar. 

I love Dua Chua, the crunchy middle parts, the sour, pickled leaves especially when eaten with the right savoury, salty meals. More on that tomorrow.

i'm not at home in my own home


  1. This sounds like a really nice side dish. How long does/can it pickle?

    I wanted to ask about your printable recipes. Are they just Google docs that you have made public? That is a great idea. :)

  2. @sarah

    From what I read on ravenouscouple's blog, it will be ready in 1-2 days and can last for 2 weeks in the fridge. However, my family never kept ours in the fridge, and it sat on the counter in a huge jar for maybe a week or two. I also remember my parents pouring out 'excess' brine to have a layer at the top that isn't soaked when taken out to be served. Or at least I assume that's what it was for. Usually I'll make a bunch of stuff and then I'll call my mom and get a list of edits and changes when she has had a chance to read up on all my mishaps.

    Yeah, they're public Google Docs. I checked on how some other people do it and some use google sites and have separate pages, but the docs seemed easier.