Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Spicy Szechuan Preserved Mustard Greens and Pork Noodle Soup (Zha Cai Rou Si Mian)

My mom used to make a pork noodle soup dish with pickled mustard greens (sometimes labeled as "Sour Mustard" in our local SoCal Chinese markets, e.g., 99 Ranch Market), which I'd always presumed and still presume to be Taiwanese since it was something that I'd grown up eating. Some years ago, I came across another version of mustard green & pork noodle soup which was on the spicier side because it utilizes Szechuan pickled mustard greens, which come in a can rather than vacuum-sealed in plastic and refrigerated. This is my iteration of that dish. I absolutely love the combination of hot (both temperature and spicy heat-wise) and sour and it's totally easy to make, so long as there's an Asian market in your hood so you can stock up on cans upon cans of spicy Szechuan preserved mustard greens. And, in case you're not in the mood for soup, the pork and spicy mustard green mixture is also excellent served with steamed white rice. 


Soup Base/Stock:
16 cups water
6 tbsp. chicken base
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. sugar

4-6 large bok choy cabbage, with bottom 1" cut off & reserved for the stock

1 1/3 lbs. boneless pork chops, trimmed of fat and cut into thin strips

Pork Marinade:
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine
1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 can (about 3 cups) preserved spicy mustard greens, thinly julienned
3 scallions, chopped
4 tbsp. vegetable oil

5 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. white pepper
2 tsp. sesame oil

1 lb. dried Chinese noodles of your choice (linguine, spaghetti or fettuccine are good substitutes)

1. Combine all the soup base ingredients in a medium stock pot. Add the reserved bok choy stems and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes. Blanch the bok choy leaves in the soup for 1-2 minutes until just done; remove to a bowl and set aside. 

2. In the meantime, trim and julienne the pork and toss with the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Cover and marinate for 30 minutes.

3. Julienne the spicy mustard greens and place in a medium bowl. Cover with cool tap water,  stir briefly and let soak for 20 minutes (this will remove some of the excess salt). After 20 minutes, pour out the water and squeeze the mustard shreds with your hands to remove as much water as possible. Blot dry with paper towels and set aside.

4. Heat 4 tbsp. oil in a saute pan or wok over medium-high heat. Saute the chopped scallions for a few seconds then add the marinated pork. Cook until the pork is just done. Stir in the shredded mustard greens, then add the seasoning ingredients. Toss briefly until all the ingredients are incorporated, then remove from heat.

5. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain & set aside. Add the noodles to the hot soup base just before serving. 

6. To serve: using tongs, parcel out the noodles into individual soup bowls, top each with a good helping of the pork and mustard green mixture, garnish with blanched bok choy leaves, then ladle over some of the piping hot soup base. 

Boneless pork chops.

Marinate the pork in soy sauce, rice wine and cornstarch.

 Spicy preserved mustard greens, thinly julienned.

Soak the mustard greens in water for 20 minutes to remove excess salt.  

Drain and blot dry the mustard greens.  

Saute the scallions in 4 tbsp. of oil.  

Add the marinated pork and cook until the pork is just done.  

Stir in the mustard greens and seasoning ingredients.  

Cut off the bottom 1" of each bok choy stalk.  

Add the bok choy bottoms to the soup base.  

Blanch the bok choy leaves 1-2 minutes in the soup base; remove and set aside.  

Cook your noodles according to package directions, drain and set aside. Add the noodles to the hot soup stock just before serving. If you have leftovers, remove the noodles from the soup and store in a separate container before refrigerating. 

Place noodles into individual serving bowls, top with the pork-mustard mixture, garnish with the blanched bok choy leaves, and ladle hot soup over. 

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