Just Hungry, a blog about Japanese cooking that I read with great interest, recently started publishing tips and recipes on how to make pickled vegetables. I love pickled vegetables (like the pickled salad I did with pork chops the other day), especially Japanese style.
Quick pickles, called sokusekizuke (instant pickles) or ichiya-zuke (overnight pickles) depending on how long they take to come to full flavor, are very easy to make as their names suggest. They are a great way to prepare vegetables without having to add any additional fat, though a few recipes do call for some oil.
It is indeed simple, and forget what you think about pickling taking a long time, these lovely taste explosions are made ready to eat or ready within one or a few hours.
Yesterday I tried a recipe for pickled spicy Chinese cabbage:
This has to be one of the easiest and tastiest ways of preparing Chinese or napa cabbage (hakusai) that I know of. All you taste is the fresh essence of the cabbage, with the heat of the red pepper and the slight twist of the orange zest.
Don't know why I have this liking of pickled veg, but this recipe brought back a memory from my child hood. I grew up in a small town in Sweden, and in the 80s Chinese (well, what passed as Chinese in Sweden at the time, usually a take on Cantonese with all the interesting stuff stripped out and I think made to work with the ingredients you could find in Swedish stors at the time...) restaurants was the thing. They popped up everywhere.
There was this particular place in my home town that I loved going to (yes mum, I mean Chai Hong), since they had this special treat for their customers. After you ordered at the counter you picked up a plate with what I realise now was pickled Chinese cabbage or iceberg lettuce, with corn. It must have been pickled using some sort of sweet mirin or similar liquid since the taste was acidic, fresh and sugary sweet at the same time. I could not get enough of it. Getting the recipe for that dish would be a dream come true.
Went back there a few months ago when on vacation in Sweden actually. The restaurant is still there, under the same name even, but the place has now switched owners several times and been turned into a boring buffet style lunch place with the mouth watering plates of pickled cabbage nowhere to be seen.
The recipe for spicy Chinese cabbage was good, but made me yearn for the pickled cabbage of my youth. Time to start experimenting methinks.