Friday, February 5, 2010

Mustard Leaf Soup with Minced Pork Recipe

Due to an incredibly vague itinerary (will we go to Laos tomorrow? Hanoi? Cambodia?) I thought I should jump on a cooking class the minute I arrived in Vietnam and didn't do my usual waffling and recommendation roundup. I ended up taking a class in Saigon that was as different from the last cooking class I took in the Philippines as thin is to fat.

I've taken a lot of cooking classes in the last year, and there are a few distinct kinds. Mainly they fall into two categories. Ones for people that cook and ones for people that don't. This one, done by Vietnam Cookery was definitely for the latter group, it was more of a daytime activity for people too lazy to go on one of those Mekong tours. All the ingredients are pre-chopped and the class basically included assembling the dishes with minimal participation.

This suited my two classmates just fine. They were a college student and her befuddled father, who looked around every few minutes, in constant surprise that he, of all people, was in a cooking class. I've never seen such a complete lack of both culinary and listening skills--it was sort of adorable but definitely set the tone for the class which was basically a rush to get lunch on the table.

Which wasn't a bad thing, really, because lunch was delicious. We made fresh spring rolls with a mung bean sauce. I've always loved these spring rolls and have made them before, but it's always nice to get more practice rolling them. One of my favorite things about Vietnam is the street food, and these salad rolls (goi cuon) are being hawked on street corners like crack.

Women crouch on the sidewalk in Saigon with the ingredients on a tray in front of them and make them to order when you walk up. Some of them have a small bbq and grill meats to put in them while you wait. My dream job!

We also made clay pot ginger chicken Gà Ram Gừng  in caramel syrup, fish sauce, spring onions, ginger, garlic, pepper and sugar. It's marinating here (we didn't eat it raw).

My favorite dish, though, was mustard leaf soup with minced pork (Canh cai xanh thit bam). My feelings may have been influenced by the fact that I hadn't had a single vegetable in the two weeks previous in the Philippines (does tapioca count?), but this soup was fantastic. Simple, fresh and incredibly easy to make, I know I'll be making this whenever I have a run-in with a kitchen again.

Mustard Leaf Soup with Minced Pork Canh cai xanh thit bam

200-300g mustard greens
50-100g minced pork
500 ml cool water
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoon chicken powder
1 teaspoon fish sauce
black pepper

1. Wash mustard greens thoroughly, cut into 2 inch pieces. Separate stems and leaves and let dry.
2. Cook minced pork in a frying pan, make sure to separate into small pieces.
3. Bring water to a boil in a small pot. Add the minced pork to the boiling water, season with salt, sugar and chicken powder to taste. Skim off scum to keep broth clear.
4. Add greens--stems first and then leaves and cook until tender, one or two minutes.
5. Turn heat off and add 1 teaspoon of fish sauce. Garnish with a pinch of black pepper and chopped coriander.

This dish should be served with steamed rice and compliments some of the saltier Vietnamese dishes.


  1. Sounds delicious, but when do the mustard greens go into the soup? And what is chicken powder? It makes me think of the dander that baby chicks throw off in such fragrant quantity.

  2. Oops, I added the missing step to the recipe. I will do a post on chicken powder soon. It's in all the Vietnamese recipes. I'm afraid it must be a msg vehicle.

  3. mustard leaf is really good in soup and hot pots..yum!

  4. Gorgeous pictures, and everything looks so good!

  5. chicken powder is chicken boullion, comes in cubes, or paste. I buy mine at Sames & Costco

  6. The chicken powder in Vietnam all contains MSG. I did some research at the supermarket.

  7. We try to cook this dish this week