Chinese Mustard: The Spiciest Mustard

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Chinese mustard is a condiment made with brown mustard seeds, which come from a variety of mustard plant called Brassica juncea. It is a relative of the plant that gives us black mustard, called Brassica nigra and the plant that provides white mustard seeds called Brassica alba or Sinapsis alba. All three belong to the same family but brown and black mustard seeds are more closely related. The Chinese and Africans have been eating all three types of mustard seeds for thousands of years. All are native to China but the brown variety is preferred.

The first culinary use of mustard seed by the Chinese is not well documented but mustard greens are mentioned in Shi Jing, also known as the Book of Odes or Book of Songs written between 800 and 600 BCE. Historians believe that they were using the seeds to flavor cooking oil.

The Chinese used brown mustard mostly for its flavor but sometimes for its color as an alternative to turmeric.

During the Tang and Yuan Dynasties, the Chinese began to consume more mustard that originated in the West; however, it was more common to eat the greens from the mustard plant rather than its seeds.

The mustard seed has been a popular source of cooking oil in China for thousands of years. The seeds are also used as a pickling spice and a medicine. Chinese medicinal applications for mustard include using it to treat poor digestion and for treating excessive phlegm in the chest.

The Chinese name for brown mustard is jiezi.

Chinese mustard flavor profile

What sets Chinese mustard apart is its heat, which is released when the mustard is mixed with water. The compound that is responsible for the sharp flavor can be destroyed by heat, which is why it is rare to see Chinese mustard cooked. To preserve the spice’s bite, it is usually prepared and served at room temperature. When it is used in cooked dishes, it is usually added late in the cooking process to ensure that some of its flavor will remain.

Chinese mustard health benefits

Chinese mustard is a good source of some important nutrients that can boost your health, like:

  • Vitamins: You can get small amounts of various B vitamins and vitamin E from a serving of Chinese mustard.
  • Minerals: Chinese mustard contains significant amounts of important minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium.
  • Allyl Isothiocyanate: The compound that produces Chinese mustard’s heat is called allyl isothiocyanate, which is formed from two enzymes myrosin and sinigrin. Allyl isothiocyanate has some important positive health benefits.

Chinese mustard is valuable for treating or preventing major health issues like:

  • Cancer: The allyl isothiocyanate in Chinese mustard has been shown to inhibit the production of various types of cancer cells.
  • High cholesterol: The B vitamins in mustard can help to lower the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood.
  • Bone health: The minerals that mustard seeds contain are important for building bone and reversing age-related bone loss.

Common uses

The most common use of Chinese mustard is as a dipping sauce for wontons and spring rolls. Another option for using Chinese mustard is as a hotter alternative to white mustard, which is more common in Western cuisine. You can use Chinese mustard in your Western-style dry rubs, marinades, and salad dressings.


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