When you hear people say that travel broadens one’s horizons, believe it. It’s not something that’s said just to sound smart. It is true — at least for travelers who embrace new experiences with their whole hearts.
In Saigon, Alex fell in love with mustard greens. I was surprised, really, because she never touched the stuff at home. But because she was willing to experience Vietnamese food in its full authenticity, she ate as the locals did.
The photo above shows our dinner on our last night in Saigon. We had eaten all the raw vegetables on the side before we finished all the food so Alex called the waiter to ask for more raw vegetables.
Why not make mustard greens a regular part of our diet at home? So, I thought I’d make chicken and mustard greens soup seasoned with fish sauce, a Vietnamese staple. Yes, this soup’s flavors scream Vietnam with every spoonful.
Inspired by a recipe I saw on Andrea Nguyen’s Viet World Kitchen which includes tofu but does not list ginger among the ingredients, I decided to add ginger because mustard greens in the Philippines are more bitter than their Vietnamese siblings and I wanted another strong flavor to balance the bitterness.
Chicken and Mustard Greens Soup
- 4 to 5 chicken backs (necks will also work)
- 2 shallots
- 1 one-inch knob ginger
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil (coconut oil give this soup the best flavors)
- fish sauce to taste
- 1 big bunch mustard greens
- If using chicken backs, chop each into two to three pieces. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Peel and thinly slice the shallots.
- Peel and slice the ginger.
- Heat the cooking oil in a pot.
- Saute the shallots and ginger until softened and lightly browned, about five minutes over medium-low heat. Push to the sides of the pot.
- Spread the chicken pieces on the bottom of the pot and turn up the heat to medium-high. Leave the chicken for a minute to allow the undersides to brown. Flip to brown the opposite sides.
- Drizzle in two tablespoons of fish sauce. Continue cooking until the fish sauce has been absorbed by the chicken.
- Pour in about six cups of water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot and let the chicken simmer for 20 minutes or so.
- While the chicken simmers, rinse the mustard greens and shake off excess water. Cut off the root ends and discard. If the leaves are rather large, cut them into halves.
- Taste the broth and add more fish sauce, if needed.
- Drop the mustard greens into the pot. Press them down into the broth to soften. Continue simmering the chicken with the mustard greens for another five to seven minutes.
- Give the broth a final taste and stir in more fish sauce if still rather bland before serving the chicken and mustard greens soup.
If you cooked this dish (or made this drink) and you want to share your masterpiece, please use your own photos and write the cooking steps in your own words.