Pickled Mustard Greens with Beef

Talking with Chinese-American friends, I discovered commonality in our experiences of growing up with mothers who would make herbal medicinal wines and would sun-dry vegetables or, in my case, even chicken giblets. My mother prided herself also on pickling mustard greens that she would get at a bargain price when in season. In a large glass jar, she would combine the Chinese mustard greens with vinegar, sugar and hot water, then hide the jar in a cool corner behind the sofa. The greens would be perfect in three months. Occasionally, when I yearned for a snack, I would sneak a bite. The sour shock would jolt my palate, a taste I can remember to this day. Her favourite method was to combine the pickled greens with beef in a simple stir-fry. Fortunately, one does not have to wait three months to experience this dish. You can easily buy freshly pickled mustard greens at Chinese grocers, either in a vacuum pack (the preferred form) or canned.

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  • 450 g (1 lb) steak
  • 2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour
  • 140 g (5 oz) pickled mustard greens
  • 3 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 4 tablespoons Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar


Cut the steak in half lengthways, then cut into thin slices 5 cm (2 in) wide and 5 mm (¼ in) thick, cutting against the grain. Mix the beef with 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce, teaspoons of rice wine, the sesame oil, bicarbonate of soda and cornflour. Let sit for 20 minutes.

Rinse the mustard greens well under cold running water. Drain thoroughly and slice them.

Heat a wok or deep pan until it is very hot. Pour in the groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and smoking, add the beef and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and drain off all but 1 tablespoon of oil.

Reheat the wok and oil, add the garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the sliced mustard greens and stir-fry for 1 minute. Pour in the chicken stock, the dark soy sauce and remaining light soy sauce, the remaining rice wine and the sugar and bring to the boil over a high heat. Mix well, then return the beef to the wok and continue to cook for another minute.

Transfer the contents of the wok to a large platter and serve at once.