I have always thought of these as “Chinese” mustard greens, but it seems it is popular in several parts of the world and figures as an ingredient several different cuisines around the world. The leaves and seeds are both edible with the latter being made into mustard oil or just used as a spice for various dishes. While we have often enjoyed this vegetable in Chinese restaurants, as pickles, parts of mixed vegetable dishes or with some meats, I have never actually cooked this variety in our home kitchen. I have used a relative, mustasa, or mustard greens in various soups and this great salad with a bagoong kalamansi dressing. Gai Choy or Brassica juncea has a voluptuous curving leaves with rather sturdy stems. It has a strong, somewhat bitter flavor that some might describe as having horseradish notes. I have seen them relatively small as in the one in these photos, or in nearly giant heads.
On closer inspection, the lush heads of mustard cabbage are spectacular plant specimens, and would make terrific table centerpieces for a Chinese themed meal. I think I was drawn to the bitter leafy greens because of all the roasted pork I have been consuming recently, and wanted to get something that might counteract all the fat in my diet. Mustard cabbage must be highly nutritious or at least I hope it is! Next up, a simple recipe for braised gai choy or mustard cabbage.
Sources: Sara Deseran’s book “asian vegetables” and Jacki Passmore’s “The Encyclopedia of Asian Food and Cooking”.