The key to a perfect pickle lies in the preparation technique used. While the western world has a limited pallet of vegetables that are pickled, the Chinese have been pickling for centuries and have pickled almost everything from nuts to meat.
In ancient times, pickling was a practical way to survive. People would pickle the items they wanted to use when they were off-season. While the western world goes for soured vegetables or vinegar preserved vegetables or vegetables pickled with salt, the Asian community goes with sweet, salty and/or spicy pickles. Asian culture has its own array of ingredients and pickling methods.
All pickle connoisseurs understand that pickles take time to be prepared; some pickles may be ready in a matter of days while some others may take months to be ready. Some pickles, with proper preservation, can be kept for years. In many Asian cultures, a bowl of rice accompanied by a pickle is considered a simple meal. The common pickled vegetables are referred to as Yanlu or Yanzhi; pickled cabbage is most often called Paozi.
The most unusual items to be pickled are eggs; duck eggs or chicken eggs are usually preserved with salt, earth and hay, among other ingredients, and are sealed to mature for a month. These are popularly eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival in Chinese versions of sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves called zhong zhi and also during the Autumn festival at the centre of mooncakes.
Here are some cooking tips and tricks to pickle perfectly.
Proper salting preserves the crunchiness of the vegetables, try not to use free-flow or low sodium salts as they tend to distort the flavour and cloud/discolour the solution.
If you don’t want your pickle to be soggy, pick the freshest vegetables. The fresher the product, the crunchier your pickle will be. So, make sure that jar of Chinese goodies is pickle perfect.
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