A traditional Vietnamese family meal usually comes with a vegetable soup dish. Not only is it a healthy side dish, but having soup to slurp helps with the digestion of the food in a multi-course meal.
One of the simplest traditional Vietnamese soups is mustard green soup or Canh Cai Be Xanh. There are many varieties of mustard greens and frankly I don't know the names of them all. There are slight variations in appearance but for the most part, they have big leafy tops and greenish/whitish bulky stalks, some bulkier than others.
For the stock, you can use whatever protein you have on hand. Here I used the backbones from all the whole chickens I cut up for other dishes. No waste here! If you don't have chicken or chicken bones to make the stock, you can also use beef (thin slices of sirloin), pork (thin slices of pork shoulder), ground pork or even shrimp. The recipe is pretty much the same for whatever protein you have on hand. However, if you use beef, make sure to not overcook it. Overcooked beef will be very tough. Quickly sear the beef at the bottom of the pot to get the nice beef flavor, then remove it. Add the beef back into the pot when you are ready to serve.
Serve this vegetable soup with steamed white rice and your favorite meat side dish for a complete Vietnamese meal. Enjoy!
Vietnamese Mustard Green Soup Recipe (Canh Cai Be Xanh)
Ingredients (serves 5)
1 lb chicken bones or 1/2 lb preferred chicken meat cut into bite size pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small white or yellow onion (dice)
8 cups water
2 tablespoons chicken stock powder
1 bunch mustard greens (Cut the leaves and steam into bite size pieces. Separate the leaves and steam as the leaves will cook a lot faster than the steams)
Season the chicken bones or meat with salt and pepper. Set aside.
To a medium-size pot, add vegetable oil and heat on medium high.
Add diced onions and saute until soft and fragrant. Do not brown. Lower heat if necessary to prevent too much browning.
Add the marinated chicken and saute until the outside is evenly caramelized.
Add water and bring the pot to a low simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes. Skim off the foam that floats to the top if necessary.
Season the pot with the chicken stock powder.
Add the mustard green stems and cook for one minute. Then add the leaves and turn off the heat. The residual heat will finish cooking the leafy part of the mustard greens.
When you're ready to serve, sprinkle black pepper on the top for a finished look. Serve with steamed white rice and a meat side dish for a traditional Vietnamese meal.