Vietnamese preserved mustard cabbage (dưa muối). Preserving memories.

Delicious Vietnam # 19

Vietnamese preserved mustard cabbage (dưa muối)

In my last trip to our home in Hanoi, I saw that my parents had been in the habit of making preserved cabbage (dưa muối) every week. They even invested in a special jar, just for that purpose. I was so tempted to bring that jar to Australia, to make the pickles myself!

Home-made preserved mustard cabbage is special. The readily available commercial ones from Thailand are often too soft and too sweet, I have long abandoned them.

 In Northern Vietnam, most women know to prepare this. Starting from fresh mustard cabbages, the whole plants are dried in the sun for several hours or the whole day. The process is said to improve the texture of the pickles later. Fresh mustard cabbages are then washed and preserved in a solution of salt and a bit of sugar. This is a crucial step. A little too much salt, the preserves will be inedible. Too little salt, the cabbage may get spoiled. It is also important that the veggies are immersed in liquid at all times. Hence, we often see a small bowl placing on top of the jar, pressing the veggies underneath. Waiting for a few days later, the green cabbage will “ripe”, turning into a pale green-gold color. The pickles are ready then, with the right amount of crunchiness and sourness.

We eat it raw or use to cook all sorts of dishes, from soup to stir-fry. I have started making this pickle a few weeks back. This week is my second batch. I can see myself making it every week, just like my parents do back home.

I am sending this to Delicious Vietnam #19, hosted by Sandy from ginger and scotch 

Vietnamese preserved mustard cabbage (dưa muối)

My recipe for Vietnamese preserved mustard cabbage (dưa muối)

 Here is a rough guide to make dưa muối. The important part of the ratio of salt and sugar to make the pickling liquid. Roughly, for every 6 cups of water, you need 3 tablespoons of salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar.

2 large brunches of mustard cabbages. Leave to dry in the sun for at least half a day. (Yield 1.5 large jars at shown in the top photo)

 Prepare 18 cups water, bring to the boil. Add in 9 tablespoons of salt, and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Dissolve, and leave to cool slightly.

 In the meantime, wash and cut the mustard cabbages into large pieces. Put them in a large sterilised jar. When the solution has cooled down but is still slightly warm, pour into the jar. Make sure that the veggies are immersed in the solution. Put an empty bowl on top to press down the veggies. Seal the jar, and leave it in a cool, dark place. The pickled should be ready in 4-5 days. Once it is “ripe”, eat straightaway or store in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process.

20 Responses to Vietnamese preserved mustard cabbage (dưa muối). Preserving memories.

  1. Diane says:

    Beautiful memories, photographs Anh. Warms my heart to feel this story.

  2. Rosa's Yummy Yums says:

    That must be delicious! Lovely pickles.

  3. johanna says:

    sounds delicious! i love preserved vegetables in all shapes and formats (also a big tradition in Austria, of course) – shall try your version soon! vietnamese "sauerkraut" who'd have thought! 😉

  4. Monet says:

    For someone who loves cabbage, this looks like a recipe I just need to try! Thank you for sharing such an inspiring recipe. I just finished eating but am already hungry again. Much love from Austin!

  5. Spoon and Chopsticks says:

    Hi Anh,

  6. leaf (the indolent cook) says:

    This is great. I too enjoy preserved vegetables especially when back in my home country, and I learn from my parents as well!

  7. pickyin@lifeisgreat says:

    The Chinese version is yellowish and quite savory, close to the Korean version I think. Great with steams fish and stir fried pork. Beautiful post Anh.

  8. Hannah says:

    I *adore* pickles but have always been too intimidated to make them. I love how you describe women in Vietnam making this. Oh to have that level of inherent knowledge!

  9. penny aka jeroxie says:

    Will give this a short. I love pickling vege.

  10. La Table De Nana says:

    It must be good:) Love the little peeling label on the left jar..and their gingham bonnets:)

  11. Arudhi@Aboxofkitchen says:

    Hi Anh, thank you for visiting my blog and I`m so glad that I get to know your lovely blog! I`m not familiar with Vietnamese dishes (embarassing fact: I`ve never tried the famous Pho!), but I know I`m soon going to learn a lot about them from your posts here. This delicious looking pickled mustard cabbage is a good start for me indeed!

  12. Shutterbug says:

    i have had these before!

  13. Karen M. says:

    Quick question: table salt or "kosher" salt? Thanks…

  14. Anh says:

    Hi Karen, table salt :)

  15. Faith says:

    Great post — delicious dish, Anh!

  16. Angry Asian says:

    is leaving in the sun necessary? i live in the city and i can just imagine leaving these leaves on the fire escape only to return later in the day to see that the squirrels have nibbled on them.

  17. Anh says:

    Angry Asian, sun drying is a traditional method. But you can lay them dry on the kitchen bench for a while.

  18. Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    Nowadays everything is convenient and we can buy preserved vegetables but it's really nice that you keep your mom's tradition and make it from scratch. I wish I know how to make pickles but my mom probably doesn't even know. Beautiful post!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Your recipe turned out delicious and PERFECT! Thanks for helping me get back in touch with my heritage.

  20. So THAT’s what that delicious stuff is called! Sometimes it comes on it’s own at the rice places I go to with my boyfriend when we want a little of everything, but sometimes it doesn’t – and I always want to ask for it by name! I’m such a pickle fiend, I know for sure I’ll be craving it if I ever leave Hanoi, too, so thank you SOOOOO much for posting a recipe/guideline! I wonder if there is a kind of cabbage that might work instead of mustard cabbage (although, that seems to be a big part of why it tastes so pungent and awesome). Anyway, it’s worth experimenting with. You’re lucky to have parents who can teach you this stuff!

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