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Yunnan-Style Pickled Mustard Greens (Suancai)

Adapted from Georgia Freedman's Cooking South of the Clouds: Recipes and Stories From China's Yunnan Province, published in 2018 by Kyle Books. I halved the recipe to fit in a quart jar, but you can easily double it by doubling all ingredients.
Author: Taylor Holliday | The Mala Market | Inspiration & Ingredients for Sichuan Cooking


  • 2 pounds large or baby gai choy (Chinese mustard greens)
  • 28 grams kosher or sea salt
  • tablespoons Sichuan chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • ½ tablespoon cooked rice (optional)


  • Wash and thoroughly dry gaichoy. Core it and cut into small bite-size pieces. Put all ingredients in a large bowl. If you do not have protective gloves, hold chili flakes for later. Wearing gloves, knead the greens and spices vigorously until reduced by about half. If you withheld the chili flakes, mix them in now.
  • In a pickling jar with 3 cups to 4 cups capacity, pack the greens into it fairly tightly. You want the greens to mostly fill the jar, so adjust the recipe accordingly for your jar, with 14 grams salt per pound of greens. Let the mixture sit for up to an hour, packing it down with a spoon every so often, until it has released enough liquid to cover the greens. If there is not enough liquid to fully cover the greens, add additional boiled-and-cooled water to top off. Lightly sprinkle a bit more salt on top. Use a weight if needed to make sure all vegetables are submerged in liquid and loosely seal the jar. Leave about an inch or more headspace, as the greens will expand as they ferment. If using a Chinese jar, fill the moat with water and keep it filled at least half-way throughout the fermentation.
  • Keep in a room-temperature dark place like a closet for about a week, checking periodically to make sure the greens are still submerged in liquid. Push them down or add more boiled water if necessary. Sample the greens after about seven days (or earlier in a hot climate). They should be notably sour and less salty and not at all smelly. If you want them to be more sour, leave a few more days. When done to your liking, transfer to the refrigerator, which will greatly slow the fermentation process. The suancai will keep for weeks, or even months.


Add to noodle soups, fried rice, stir-fried minced beef, and fish stew (suan cai yu).