Donâ€™t skip this entry because the salad sounds a bit bizarre, it actually tastes fantastic! Mustasa (Mustard Greens) with a bagoong and kalamansi dressing is not something you would eat as a starter or appetizer. Instead, it is a perfect match for a deep fried fish such as hito or catfish or tilapia. Several weeks ago I ate at the Milky Way CafÃ© in Makati and I tried their mustasa salad and have been trying to recreate it at home. On the second try, I seem to have the essence of it though I suspect Milky Way must do something a little different on the dressing.
The key to success is starting with incredibly fresh, healthy mustasa. The leaves have to be crisp, taught and alive. The mustasa photographed here was extremely fresh and the leaves werenâ€™t riddled with bug bites. Mustasa or mustard cabbage (Brassica juncea) is a large family that includes many different types of related leafy greens. The ones in this photograph are also known as Gai Choy Sum and are characterized by skinnier, crunchy stems and slightly serrated leaves. They are a bright green and their flavor is best described as spicy and â€œbracingâ€â€¦ On their own they are a tough nibble. Most recipes call for cooking or pickling mustard greens. But if you like strong flavors and fat/spice pairings, try this recipe using uncooked greens one of these days.
Buy the best mustasa you can find, wash carefully and wrap in paper towels and store in the fridge for 2-3 hours to freshen up the leaves further. Chop them about 1/3 of an inch wide and put in a salad bowl. Make the dressing by squeezing 10-15 kalamansi and straining out the seeds, add a big dollop of bagoong alamang (shrimp paste), 1-2 siling labuyo (birds eye chillis), a few dashes of patis (fish sauce) and some ground black pepper. Mix this all up and dress the mustasa leaves just before serving. It goes best with deep fried fish. It would probably go well with seriously fat pork as well. I had it most recently with fried tilapia and it tasted really good!