Simple Eats – Home-Pickled Vegetables 酱菜
Chinese New Year is just around the corner. Lots of pigging out for sure. Amidst all that gorging ourselves with rich and usually artery-clogging foods, I sometimes crave for something light and less harsh on the palate. Signs of getting old probably. Last year I made myself a nice tub of pickled vegetables which I devoured with just hot teochew porridge and half a salted egg. I thought I should do it this year as well. Simplicity can sometimes be so blissful and sublime.
1 small cauliflower
1 red chilli
1 green chilli
200ml of white glutinous rice vinegar (not artficial ethanoic or acetic acid)
100 ml of water
a pinch of salt
4 tablespoons of sugar
a pinch of sesame seeds
a dash of sesame oil
Cut the carrot, chillies and cucumber into short strips. Remember to remove the seeds and cut out the soft parts from the cucumber and chillies.
Cut in the cauliflower into small florets
In a small pot, add water, vinegar, salt and sugar. Heat over low flame and stir periodically to melt the sugar and salt.
Separately in a saucepan, toast the sesame seeds lightly over a low flame. I’m lazy to do this and used toasted sesame seeds from the Japanese foods section at a local supermarket.
Pack the bite-size morsels of vegetables into a sterilised glass container. I recycle old kaya jam and yuzu citron honey bottles for this purpose. Just give the bottles and caps a good rinse and place them in a pot of boiling water for a while.
Once the solution in the pot comes to a boil. Turn off the fire and add a dash of sesame oil and toss in the toasted sesame seeds. Give the mixture a good stir and very carefully pour this make-shift vinaigrette into the glass container.
Allow the bottle to cool thoroughly and give the bottle a few turnarounds to make sure the flavours are well-distributed before placing it in the refrigerator for the pickling process to kick in. A day should do the trick but it may be enjoyed over the next 2-3 weeks or so.
If a sweeter edge is desired, more sugar may be added. But I like the tarty sensation that vinegar provides, so 4 tablespoons of sugar is enough for me.
Sesame oil must be added only after the fluids are taken off the fire.
I used white radish in last year’s concoction as it love its crunch. But this year’s white radish was pricier than I thought so I omitted it.
Adjust the fluid volumes and amount of vegetables based on the amount you wish to pickle.
For a more fiery dimension, chilli flakes or even better still, small unchopped chilli padi may be added. But like I’d said, I want it to be light on the palate, so no red hot stuff in here for me.
When serving, just use a fork or pair of chopsticks to pick out the vegetable pieces into a small plate and eat with hot porridge.
Chinese people can be quite “pantang” and favour sweet and savour foods during the festive period rather than this rather refreshing but somewhat sharp side dish. So exercise discretion on to whom you serve it to. If not friends and relatives might think you are very 寒酸! lol