As some of you may or may not know, my ethnic background is Filipina and Black. When I’m re-working a traditional Soul Food recipe, like braised greens, I think to myself, “how would my Black grandmother cook this if she were living in the Philippines” , or “how would my Filipino grandmother make this if she lived in the South”? Although worlds apart, there are similarities between traditional Filipino and Soul Food dishes – both cultures embrace the use of “less desirable” cuts of meats and vegetables; both love slow stewed or braised veggies; both use spiced vinegar on their greens. Yay! Also, both the Soul Food and Filipino versions usually use some kind of pork, but I wanted to keep this version vegetarian. If that’s not a big deal for you, throw in some sliced bacon or a smoked turkey leg!
So, this is me, combining both of my backgrounds into one delicious dish. Half Black, half Filipino collard greens lol
You’ll need greens (I’m using collards, but any hearty green will work – mustard, kale, etc), ginger, onion, garlic, thai chili paste (see the notes below on this ingredient), coconut milk, spiced vinegar, lemongrass and serrano chilis.
Chop up the onions, chilis and garlic. Remove the rough green leaves from the lemongrass and bruise the tender white parts with the backside of a chefs knife. Cut the ginger into thin matchsticks.
Add about 1 tbsp of coconut or vegetable oil to a large pot and saute the garlic, ginger, onions, chilis and lemongrass until fragrant over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes.
Add in Thai dry chili paste. This is a very specific item found at Trader Joes, but basically we’re trying to add some “umami” flavor. To keep this vegetarian, you could add in a mushroom-based oyster sauce or fermented black bean paste. If seafood isn’t a concern, you could also add in shrimp paste (bagaoong) or fish sauce (patis).
Add in the coconut milk. I used two cans of full-fat coconut milk, but feel free to substitute half with light coconut milk. Bring the mixture to a boil and then add in the greens.
Cover with a lid and turn the heat down to medium. Let simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the greens are tender and cooked to your liking.
Ta-da! Tender, delicious and quite flavorful. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. I added about 1/2 tsp of salt and a few grinds of freshly cracked pepper.
Fish out the lemongrass. She’s done all she can do.
This is the key. This is what brings everything together – spiced vinegar. If you can’t find this at your local Asian grocery store, you can totes make your own.
Serve with about 1 cup of hot white rice. Make sure to spoon the coconut broth over the rice!
Add a side of the spicy vinegar and let each person adjust to their personal taste. I like a lot of it.
Delicious, healthy and filling!
Spicy Coconut Braised Greens
Cuisine: Filipino, Soul Food
- 1 tbsp coconut oil (vegetable oil can be used)
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 2-4 Serrano chilis, thinly sliced (remove seeds for less spice)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3" chunk of ginger, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
- 2 stalks lemongrass, tender white only and bruised with the back of a knife
- 2 tbsp Thai dry curry paste (see notes for substitutions)
- 2 cans coconut milk (full fat or light, or a combination of the two)
- 2 lbs collard greens (mustard, chard, etc), stems removed and cut into 1/2" wide strips
- salt and pepper
- spiced vinegar (sukang), for garnish
- In a large pot over medium heat, add in coconut oil and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in chilis, onions, ginger and lemognrass and saute another 5 minutes. Add Thai curry paste and the coconut milk and stir to combine. Bring to a boil.
- Add in the greens and reduce the heat to medium. Cover pot and braise for 30-45 minutes, until greens are tender to your liking. I braised for 45 minutes.
- Serve with hot white rice and a side of spicy vinegar to drizzle on top.
If you can't find Thai Dry Chili Paste or don't have a Trader Joe's around you, you can substitute a mushroom-based oyster sauce (about 2 tbsp), fermented black bean paste (start with 1 tbsp and add more after you taste it with the coconut milk), or a Thai red curry paste.
If keeping the dish vegetarian isn't an issue for you, you can add in a couple of tablespoons of shrimp paste (bagaoong) or fish sauce (patis).