Man, what a mouthful that title is! The reason it is such a mouthful is that I always thought this dish was called "Kiam Chye Boey" but found out from my mom that it is not. "Kiam Chye Boey" is a dish that uses "kiam chye" – salted mustard greens (gai choy). This dish, on the other hand, only uses fresh gai choy.
What is similar between the two dishes, is that they both use leftover meat, such as pig’s feet and duck’s head (you could even use turkey if you like). Now, I know that pig’s feet and duck’s head doesn’t sound very appealing as good eats. But let me tell you, this dish is simply delicious! If you like Chinese Hot Sour Soup, this is a gazillion times better! And it’s so easy to make once you procure yourself the right ingredients.
First, Get the Leftovers
The first thing you need to do is to get yourself to one of those Chinese BBQ shops and ask them for their roasted pig’s feet. If you can get the forefeet, those are meatier. Make sure to get at least two (the more the merrier!). The pig’s feet will probably cost you a few bucks. Make sure to ask them to chop them into smaller pieces.
Then while you’re there, ask also for the duck’s heads (as many as you can get your hands on). Sometimes, if you know the person behind the counter, he might be willing to give the heads to you for free.
Pigs’ Feet and Duck Heads
Tip: If the store is popular for their bbq’d meats, the pig’s feet will go fast so get there early. However, in order to get lots of duck’s heads, you’ll need to go later in the day, because as they sell more of the ducks, they will be more likely to have more duck heads leftover. I went to two different shops to procure these: 99 Ranch, and Gum Kuo Restaurant in Oakland. The 99 Ranch ones were dry and not very meaty, though. If you have a favorite Chinese bbq store and you like their duck and roast pig, stick with them.
And Now, the Rest of the Story
The rest of the ingredients are pretty simple. You will need some assam pei/assam keping (These are dried slices of the assam gelugor fruit). I’m not sure if you can procure this everywhere in the US, but I seem to recall seeing it at a 99 Ranch sometime ago–mine came from Malaysia (in a suitcase!).
You will also need a package of dried chillies (any type will do), and lots and lots of gai choy (mustard greens). If you cannot find assam pei, you can use tamarind (not the sweetened ones) as a substitute.
Dried Chillies and Assam Pei
Hot Sour Gai Choy Soup with Roasted Pig’s Feet and Duck’s Heads
makes enough to feed 8-10
10-12 cups of water
2 roasted pig’s feet (forefeet is preferable), chopped
5-8 duck’s heads and neck, chopped
12-14 pieces assam pei, rinsed (more if you like it more sour)
15-20 dried chillies, rinsed (depending on how spicy your chillies are, you can choose to add more midway if you find it not spicy enough)
6-8 lbs gai choy (mustard greens), either large or small ones, cut into 2 inch pieces (I bought 5 packages from my Asian grocery store)
Soy sauce and fish sauce to taste
1. In your largest stock pot, put the water, dried chillies, and assam pei and set the water to boil.
2. Toss in all the pig’s feet and duck’s head and let stock come to a boil again and then simmer for 30 minutes.
Simmering Duck Heads and Pigs’ Feet
3. Add in the gai choy. It will seem like a huge mountain of greens but they cook down. If they won’t all fit into the pot, just wait for the first batch to cook down a little, then continue to add more veggies until you’ve succeeded in putting them all in.
Adding Gai Choy to the Soup
4. Simmer for an hour. Taste and see if it’s spicy and sour and salty enough. If it lacks any of those flavors, add more chillies, assam pei or soy sauce and fish sauce accordingly.
5. Continue to simmer until the meats have released their flavors and the greens are very tender (they will turn more yellow in color but that’s fine for this dish–think southern-style cooked collard greens!).
This dish is amazing in its flavors. The heartiness of roasted pork and duck. The saliva-inducing sourness of the assam pei. The slow burn of the chillies. I didn’t think I would like this when my mom first made it but the combination of flavors is somehow just right and brings about a feeling of great contentment and satisfaction when you taste it. I don’t even need to eat the meats; the flavors have already melded into the soup and just drinking that and eating the mustard greens is a total meal. I normally don’t eat the assam pei or chillies but there’s nothing stopping you if you want to.