The name Chai Buey 菜尾 (also known as Kong Assam or Kiam Chai Boey) means 'leftovers'. Although by the sound of it, doesn't really strike you as an enticing dish. However, in many Peranakan household, this is considered as the best part of the Chinese New year celebration.
This humble sweet and sour stew is comforting and incredibly easy to prepare. After spending days cooking up a huge feast for the big day, making this feels like you are giving yourself a well earned break.
The recipe - well if you can even call it that - is very simple. Think of it like a bubble and squeak if you like. It's just a matter of chucking leftover roast meat you happens to have knocking about into a stew pot. This can be either pork belly, duck or chicken etc. As for whether to use one type of roast meat or a selection is entirely up to you and really depends on what you have at hand.
Add some chopped Chinese mustard greens (Gai Choy), sour fruit slices (asam gelugor), tamarind, dried chillies and water and Bob's your uncle.
Let the stew simmer gently for an hour while you put your weary feet up. After that, the stew should have developed a wonderfully sweet, tangy and spicy flavour. Season and then chow down with some piping hot steamed rice.
See, how easy is that! You don't even have to break into a sweat cooking this. That's why this is a firm favourite after the hectic New Year's day.
If you don't have any leftover (well sometime those crispy roast belly are just too good to resist), this stew can also be made with pork ribs. Although it will lack the same richness but that's not to say it won't be just as delicious.
Chinese mustard greens (Gai Choy) are crucial in this stew. Only the spicy, peppery mustard greens will stand up to the robust stew. Any other mildly flavoured vegetables will just disappears into the background.
If you can't get hold of the dried sour fruits slices, you can omit these but increase the amount of tamarind to compensate. Adjust the saltiness and tanginess according to your own personal taste. The finished dish should have a perfect sweet-sour balance.
Just between you and me, this is so good that I sometimes make a special effort to nip down to Chinatown for some roast pork belly just to make this. Delicious!
500g leftover roast meat (I used roast pork belly), chopped into chucks (substitute with pork ribs if not available)
1 stalk Chinese mustard green, cut into large pieces
3 asam gelugor (sour fruit slices)
1 lemongrass stalk, lightly bruised
8 dried red chillies
2 tbsp tamarind pureé
2 tbsp soy sauce
salt and sugar, to taste
(If you are using pork ribs, blanch them in some boiling water for a few minutes first, drain and rinse under running tap water)
In a large pot, add all the ingredient, except for the salt and sugar, and bring to the boil over medium-high heat.
Place the lid on, turn the heat down to a low and simmer for 1 hour.
Season with salt and sugar to taste and served hot with steamed rice.