The Chinese New Year festivities would not be complete without this much awaited dish called Chai Boey which literally means leftovers. This is a tangy dish of mustard greens boiled with leftover meats and vegetables, popularly known as Chop Suey in our family. There is no specific recipe and the taste differs each time depending on what is leftover from the feasts of the previous days. While some families will dump in all their leftovers, Mom is more selective in what she puts into this dish. Siew Yoke (Roast Pork Belly) is a must as it provides the fat to moisten the mustard greens. The only other leftover she will include is the Jiu Hu Char from which my Warm Jicama and Cabbage Salad is based on. Instead of shrimps, Jiu Hu Char has pork, cuttlefish, and mushrooms in it.
Although we call this dish Chop Suey, it is not to be mistaken for the version found here in the US. The idea however, is similar in that a mixture of ingredients is used. Chop Suey as known here is cooked with meats, celery, cabbage, bean sprouts, and noodles in a starch-thickened sauce typically served with rice. Chai Boey on the other hand is more soupy, tangy, and spicy.
Pickled mustard greens (kiam chai) are sold in plastic packages. Tamarind slices are a little more difficult to find here but it can be substituted with tamarind paste or lime juice.
Mustard greens, on the other hand, can be easily found at the Asian grocery stores. These leafy green vegetables have a peppery taste and can stand up to being boiled without breaking down too much.
This recipe is very forgiving and the ingredients listed here are more of a guide. Please adjust accordingly. If you cannot get some of the ingredients, please refer to the notes at the end of this post. I have cook this successfully with various substitutions.
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 lb (450g) crackly roast pork belly, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small package pickled mustard greens (kiam chai), sliced
- 6 dried chilies, soaked in warm water
- 4 to 5 slices assam gelugor (tamarind slices)
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 large stalk Chinese mustard greens, sliced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes (optional)
Heat oil in a large pot. Add crackly roast pork belly, onion, and garlic. Fry until onion and garlic are lightly brown, about 3 minutes.
Pour about 10 cups (2.4 liters) of water into the pot. Add pickled mustard greens, dried chilies, and assam gelugor (tamarind slices).
When it comes to a boil, add salt, dark soy sauce and as much mustard greens as the pot can accommodate. Put the lid on and allow vegetables to cook down.
Add remaining mustard leaves and tomatoes.
Reduce heat and allow it to simmer for about 1½ to 2 hours.
1. If you do not have crackly roast pork belly, use 6 slices of bacon and 1 pound of pork sirloin cut into bite size pieces. These should be added at the beginning together with onions and garlic.
2. Asam gelugor (tamarind slices) may be substituted with 2 teaspoon (or more depending on taste) of asam jawa (tamarind paste). If you can’t find tamarind slices or tamarind paste, add in lime juice. I have tried this and it tastes just as good.
3. Any leftovers that you may wish to include should be added to the pot when vegetables are being added.
Delicious on its own or with a steaming bowl of white rice.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!