I am addicted to pickles.From Polish mushrooms to Korean radishes, English onions to German Sauerkraut, if it contains salt and/or vinegar I am usually overcome by the sort of craving that isn’t sated until the entire jar has been devoured in one sitting (and yes, if no one’s watching I have even been known to polish off the tangy pickling liquid. It’s that bad).
When I lived in Japan my neighbours would periodically satisfy this craving with gifts of pickled cucumbers and radishes, the vegetables lovingly preserved from a glut they had harvested themselves and the pickling recipe unique to each family. When I found this recipe on the fabulous “Appetite for China” site I had to give it a try. Miraculously I somehow managed to restrain myself enough to wait for the flavours to develop before eating them and it was well worth it. The crisp, tangy results were the perfect accompaniment to some tatsuta age mackerel and steamed basmati brown rice.
Spicy Pickled Cucumbers
4 to 5 “kirby”/small ridge cucumbers
2 fresh Thai red chillies (bird’s eye chillies), finely chopped
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 medium-sized carrot, very thinly sliced (ideally with a mandolin)
1 teaspoon sesame seed
Slice the cucumbers in half length-wise, then quarter them to end up with long wedges. Toss the cucumbers in salt and let stand for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, briefly cook the red chillies for 20 seconds. In a small bowl, mix together the red chillies, rice wine vinegar, salt, sugar, and sesame oil.
Drain the excess water from the cucumbers. Coat with the chilli-vinegar mixture. Mix in carrot slices. Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature (or overnight in the fridge) to allow cucumbers to absorb the flavours. Serve cold or at room temperature. Sprinkle over with sesame seeds.