Pucker Up: Korean and Japanese Pickled Vegetables

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

After my trip to New York a few weeks ago, which was ladden with nostalgic noshes like pizza, cheesecake, and corned beef, I have really felt the need to lighten up in the kitchen. My usual sweet tooth has been replaced with cravings for all things sour.

Kimchi; Image: Shape Magazine

I usually keep a jar of dill pickles in the fridge but they don’t really make a well-rounded meal. But the idea of pickled something got stuck in my head and it wasn’t long before I was dreaming of Korean food, mostly for the kimchi that is served as a de rigueur accompaniment for all meals and even stars in dishes like kimchi jigae (kimchi soup).

kimchi jigaeKimchi Jigae; Image: No Recipes

Kimchi consists of chunks of vegetables (usually cabbage, daikon radish, and scallions), seasoned with ginger and red pepper, and fermented in salt. Its pungency and fiery heat is an acquired taste but once you get used to it, it can be addictive.

kimchi reuben via closet kitchenKimchi Rueben Sandwich; Image: Closet Kitchen

I love the idea of breaking it out of its traditional mold and creating some fusion yumminess like Closet Kitchen’s Kimchi Rueben Sandwich, which replaces the traditional sauerkraut with this Korean condiment.

DIY Kimchi Kit via Kombucha BrooklynDIY Kimchi Kit; Image: Kombucha Brooklyn

We don’t have many Korean restaurants in Louisville; As soon as I have a weekend to spare, I’m going to try Kitchen Wench’s recipe. In the meantime, I’m considering ordering some of the awesome Mother In Law’s Kimchi brand or one of its cute DIY kits.

pickled gingerPickled Ginger, Image: Rasa Malaysia

I started to look around for some speedier options and came across several easy recipes for Japanese pickles. Despite my crazy obsession with sushi, I was completely ignorant of the popularity of pickled vegetables in Japanese cuisine beyond the ubiquitous bright pink ginger (which I could eat a plate of all on its own).

tsukemono via The Road of ForksTsukemono, Image: The Road Forks

But a quick search reveals that the Japanese pickle just about everything, from green beans to plums, which are collectively known as tsukemono. In homage to my love of dills, the first one that I am going to try is The Cultivated Life’s Sonomono Salad, a sweet-tart mix of cucumbers, rice wine vinegar, and sesame seeds. I’m also eager to try Just Bento’s slightly more robust Yuzu-Scented Winter Vegetable Tsukemono Pickles, which mixes a variety of veggies with the aromatic Asian citrus fruit.

Sonomono via the Cultivated LifeSonomono; Image: The Cultivated Life

In addition to being easy to prepare, tsukemono are extremely versatile. Just about any vegetable can be quickly fermented in a simply-spiced acidic base. And nothing says that you have to stick to traditional recipes.

pickled rampsPickled Ramps; Image: Apple Pie, Patis, & Pâté

Why not borrow from both cuisines, like Apple Pie, Patis, & Pâté does with Pickled Ramps, in which spicy red Korean peppers are blended with Japanese seven-spice and rice wine vinegar? I’m not waiting for spring to try this one out-I’m just going to switch out the ramps for another veggie and enjoy this pout-puckering treat now!

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