After our second child was born, my parents came to Austin from the other side of Pacific to give us some support. Except taking care of the little baby which they really enjoyed (they enjoyed so much that they think I should have the third one now :)), they could not really adapt to the life in the states. So to kill their extra time, they started to plant Chinese mustard green (小芥菜）vegetables on our vegetable beds (well, originally flower beds). The whole vegetable garden idea turned out to be a huge success. By just watering them, we have unlimited supply of Chinese mustard green throughout the whole summer without fertilizing the dirt.
My parents left after my baby turned one year old. And that vegetable garden was the last on my priority list. In fact, I totally forgot about it! A few days ago, my husband came in from backyard and said, “Babe, you might want to take a look at our vegetable beds. There are enormous green plants growing tall. They don’t look like weeds.” So I went out for the very first time to the vegetable garden six months after my parents left. Wow, what a nice surprise! The Chinese mustard greens grows so much on their own even without watering! Some of them are so mature that I will leave them for seeds’ harvest later. Still I have more than a basket full of Chinese mustard greens.
I decide to make a dish that is special from my hometown and one of my favorites in our family cooking: 冲菜 pungent vegetable. The Chinese mustard green at its young stage has very mild bitter taste. To make 冲菜 pungent vegetable, we need more mature vegetables, sometimes with flowers. The steps are simple and the final dish has medium to sharp taste that produces vapours that stimulate the nasal passages, like wasabi. I have never made this dish before, so I called my parents and got the instructions:
1. Wash your Chinese mustard greens throughly and air dry them in a shaded area, not directly under the sun light. I put it on a wire shelves and put it out before go to work in the morning and it is nicely dry in the afternoon after work.
2. Mince the stems and leaves into small pieces.
3. Use a frying pan (make sure it is dry and oil free!) and medium to high heat. Put the vegetables in and stir until the temperature is evenly distributed and vegetables become drier but still green.
4. Turn off the heat and transfer into a big bowl. Use utensil to FIRMLY press the vegetables to be a tight block in the bowl.
5. Leave it over night in refrigerator or wait it until it cools down.
6. Mince some garlic cloves and put the garlic and chilli power in the heated hot oil. Once you can smell the fragrance, put in vegetables and quickly stir them loosen. Season with salt.
Here you go. Make Sure to grab some napkins before you start to eat. 🙂