Chai Boey (Leftover Magic!)

I was told by my mom that years ago (probably when she was a kid), people used to bring food containers to Chinese wedding dinners. Once the dinner is over, and trust me when I say they serve about 10 big courses for dinner, relatives of the bridal party would begin packing up leftovers to take home. If you think this sounds weird, bear in mind that the Chinese are very frugal people. Food wastage isn’t in their blood.

What do they do with those leftovers, you may ask? They make Chai Boey! Basically odds and ends of meat like chicken wing tips, bits of stewed meat, vegetable strands etc all thrown into a a big pot with water, dried chillies, mustard leaves for bulk, tamarind slices and soy sauce. This is simmered down until the mustard leaves have collapsed and become very tender. A one-pot meal that can stretch over several days depending on how much leftovers you’ve got!

I’ve also been told that one pot of Chai Boey would be kept on the stove during the Chinese New Year period just so that if there are leftovers on the 1st day of the festivities, they would be thrown in and simmered down for the following day’s meals. The same thing happens the next day with extra leftovers. And it goes on and on until the pot of sour brothy goodness drained dry.

With Thanksgiving happening tomorrow for friends over in the US, perhaps you might want to give this a go in tackling your mountain of leftovers ;-).

As every pot of Chai Boey uses different leftover meat, these days people tend to keep it simpler by using leftover roasted pork, roast duck + odds & ends, mustard leaves, tamarind slices, dried chilies, ginger, peppercorn & soy sauce. As an optional ingredient, some dried scallops would make this sweeter and tastier. I forgot to add it to this picture but you best believe I threw some into the pot!
Chai Boey 1

Seems to me there are a variety of mustard leaves or greens out there. These are generally called Chinese mustard leaves or gai choy. Generally very bitter with a mustardy backnote. The long simmering gets rid of the bitterness while retaining the soft meaty texture of those thick stems. These are also pickled and used in soups, stews and stirfries. They are really dirty though, so a very thorough leaf-by-leaf rinsing is needed.
Chai Boey 2

You’d’d notice I have bits of wing tips, neck, ribs and also meatier cuts that I deliberately went out and bought just to make this a proper full meal.
Chai Boey 3

All of these was thrown into my thermal pot with some water and left to cook on it’s own overnight.
Chai Boey 4

In the morning, I was greeted with this!
Chai Boey 5

I brought the pot over to my parents’ place for dinner with my family and I thought it could do with being even more sour! Not my mom though. Haha~!
Chai Boey 6

The veggies became really tender and juicy while all the meat became meltingly soft.
Chai Boey 7

Breathing new life to leftovers!
Chai Boey 8

Count how many times I say the word “leftovers”. 😀
I wanna make this soon again. This is so perfect on a rainy day and a bowl of rice. By the way, it was storming last night!

Anyway, bye and Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow, friends!


“O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon His name: make known His deeds among the people. ” (Psalm 105:1)

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Chai Boey (Leftover Magic!)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 10
  • Appx 2-3 cups leftover Meat (I used roast pork & duck)
  • 2 bunches Chinese Mustard Leaves
  • 6 dried Red Chilies
  • ½ cup dried Tamarind Slices (substitute with 1 tbsp tamarind paste)
  • ½ tbsp Black Peppercorn
  • 5 slices Ginger
  • 10 dried Scallops
  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 3 cups Water
  • Salt, to taste
  1. Wash mustard leaves carefully to ensure all the dirt is removed from the creases. Cut into large pieces or leave whole if not too big.
  2. Cut leftover meats into smaller pieces, if preferred.
  3. Place everything into a pot and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to simmer for about 1 hour.
  5. If using thermal pot, being to a boil in inner pot then replace into outer thermal casing. Leave to cook overnight.
  6. Serve with rice or noodles!
**This is clearly not a precise recipe. Use however much meat you want and adjust seasonings and flavours to your own preference! Keep it tangy, though, because that's the hallmark of Chai Boey.


  1. […] dinner for lunch. Or a bulk meal eaten over 2-3 meals. In fact, one of my very favourite dishes is Chai Boey, a dish made out of leftovers but yet holding itself so well together that it’s become […]

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