Roast Pork and Mustard Green Stew | Chai Boey
“Chai Boey” is a colloquial Penang Hokkien word. “Chai” means “vegetable”, and “boey” means “the tail end” or “last”. It doesn’t make any sense if we try to translate the word literally into English. What it means is to use up the “leftovers” and traditionally for the Chinese “Hokkien” in Penang, “chai boey” is cooked using roast meats – such as, roast pork, roast chicken, roast duck – leftover from Chinese New Year, most importantly from the thanksgiving prayers to Jade Emporer, a supreme deity in the Taoist pantheon, on the 9th day of Chinese New Year, also known as the “Hokkien New Year Day”.
In Penang Hokkien, we call this most important day of year “tcheh kau” meaning “day 9”, “Hokkien lang seh jit” meaning “Hokkien people’s birthday” and also “pai ti kong” meaning “praying to the heavenly god”. This folklore of Penang Hokkien, whose ancestors originated from Fujian province in southeastern China believes their ancestors were saved by the Jade Emporer “heaven god” from genocide by ruthless enemies in ancient time by hiding in sugarcane plantations in their village. This is the most important and significant celebration for Penang Hokkien and is done on a grand scale at Weld Quay in front of “Chew Jetty” in Penang, Malaysia.
This is a family recipe passed down by my maternal grandmother to my mum and now to me. It is our family tradition to make this stew by making use of leftover roast meats after the 9th day of Chinese New Year.
The broth from the long hours of stewing the ingredients and roast meats is super tasty and yummy packed with flavours of saltiness, sourness and spiciness. Adjust the saltiness by adjusting the number of sour plums you add into the stew. The sourness can be adjusted based on the number of tamarind slices and the spiciness based on the number of dried chilies and bird eye chilies. The great thing about making your own “chai boey” is that you can control the flavours by adjusting the ingredients used to your taste.
Prepare and cut the vegetables in chunky bite pieces
Cut roast meat in chunky bite pieces
Place all spice ingredients with sufficient water in a pot on high heat and bring to a boil
Lower heat. Add the firmer vegetables in the pot to cook first
Add the leafy mustard greens in the pot next to cook
Continue stewing on low heat. Taste and adjust until it reaches the consistency you are after
How to make
Wash and clean the Chinese green mustard. Cut into halves to separate the stem and the leaves. Set aside.
Wash and clean the tomatoes.
Wash and clean the carrots. Cut into chunky bite pieces.
Place all the ingredients except tomatoes, mustard green and carrot in a claypot or a pot large enough to cook all the ingredients.
Add about 1 litre of water enough to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil and let it boil for 20-30 minutes.
Remove and discard the onion. Add carrots and mustard green (only the stem bit). Lower the heat to medium and continue to stew for another 20 minutes.
Have a taste. Adjust accordingly to your own taste. Add the remaining mustard green (the leafy bit) and tomato. By this time, add a bit more water if necessary to cover the vegetables. If you add more water, make sure you bring the heat back up to high to boiling temperature, then lower it down once it’s boiling.
Continue stewing for another 15-20 minutes.
Ready to serve.
any leftover roast meats, preferably roast pork, roast chicken or roast duck
a bunch of Chinese mustard green
2-3 small carrots. This is optional
1-2 tomatoes whole
1 red onion whole with its skin peeled
1-1.5 litre of water enough to cover all the ingredients for stewing
5 tamarind peels or adjust to taste for sourness
7 salted plums or adjust to taste for saltiness and sourness
10 dried chilies or adjust to taste for spiciness
2 Thai bird eye red chili. This is optional
2 lemongrass stalk bruised
1 thumb size ginger bruised
5 cloves of garlic