When I go to a Korean restaurant, the favorite part of my meal has always been all the pickled accompaniments. Now, I can make some of them at home. Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon is a collection of recipes for, just as the name suggest, Asian pickles.
The book is divided into sections for Japan, Korea, China, India, and Southeast Asia. Personally, I would have considered all of those countries to be be part of Southeast Asia, except maybe India. A quick look at the author’s resources section shows that the southeast Asia portion consists of recipes from Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Fair enough. Each of the sections comes with an intro about when and how to serve the pickles and “basics” of the pickles for that region. I find that Asian pickles go well with just about any dish .. or by themselves. I like the pickles with a meat dish because they cut the richness of the meat with their acidity. Sometimes, I eat plain rice with the pickled dishes (kimchi, pickled bean sprouts, hot pickled pineapple).
Much as I love Asian pickles, I had to pass on some of the recipes. There are some recipes with ingredients that were unfamiliar to me – like shiso leaves and koji rice. I couldn’t find them in the Asian stores that I visited so I skipped those recipes. I also passed on the squid kimchi. The squid gets cured in the brine, but the smell from raw squid … yech. I know that many Asian pickles smell because they’re fermented and some of the call for fish sauce, but I have limits for what my olfactory cells can handle.
Luckily, there were plenty of recipes that were easy to follow, required easily found ingredients, and tasted great. I liked the daikon and carrot pickle (the stuff found on Vietnamese banh mi), the pickled chiles with lime (great way to use up those jalapenos from the garden), pickled shallots, and marinated bean sprouts. I think that the best part of these recipes is that almost all of them don’t stand up to canning so you don’t need to bother with all the canning equipment. Of course, that also means that their shelf life is less.
This is a great book for people who love Asian pickles. Warning: you will run out of space in your fridge.
Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review.
Edit: Here is a picture of carrots & daikon.