Review: “Asian Pickles,” Karen Solomon

Pros: I’m getting addicted to pickling; a wide variety of types of recipes
Cons: That wide variety means some recipe styles inevitably won’t appeal
Rating: 4 out of 5

 

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

 

Asian Pickles: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Cured, and Fermented Preserves from Korea, Japan, China, India, and Beyond provides an incredibly wide array of pickle varieties. The cookbook is organized by geographic locale (Japan, Korea, China, India, and Southeast Asia). Each section talks about the place of pickles in the area’s food traditions, as well as including some historical notes.

Japan: This chapter includes miso pickles (Misozuke), rice bran pickles (Nukazuke), pickled plums and pickled plum ‘vinegar’ (Umeboshi and Umezu), pickled ginger (Gari), Red pickled ginger (Beni Shoga), and more. The traditional section also includes recipes for pickling mustard greens, turnips, and seaweed. Then there’s a section of ‘inspired pickles’ courtesy of the author, such as a mixed ginger and shiso pickle, pickled Asian pear with lemon, and more. I haven’t yet tried any from this chapter, although I particularly look forward to making the pickled Asian pear, ‘Wasabi’-pickled carrots, and pickled ginger.

Korea: This chapter includes both Kimchi recipes and Banchan recipes. I admit, I skipped the Kimchi. I’d rather make Banchan, such as the marinated bean sprouts, pickled cucumbers, sweet shredded daikon and carrot, or mushrooms in soy sauce. We made and very much enjoyed those mushrooms, which were dark with soy and just a little sweet. They were particularly good as a foil to salmon.

Soy Mushrooms

Soy Mushrooms

China: Once again we have traditional pickles and inspired pickles, with the addition of a few sauces (make your own chile sauce!). Traditionals include radish in chile oil, preserved steamed lemons, salt-preserved eggs with star anise, and preserved mustard greens. Inspired pickles include five-spice pickled carrots (lemony and sweetly spicy), sour celery and red pepper, sichuan cucumbers with orange and almonds, and Shanghai cabbage and chile. Some pickles in this book only need to sit for an hour (those soy mushrooms), while others need days (the five-spice carrots). Some can be canned while others cannot.

Five-spice pickled carrots

Five-spice pickled carrots

India: This chapter is divided into pickles and chutneys. I can’t wait to make the sweet mango pickle, lime pickle, and green mango pickle. The hot carrot pickle also sounds wonderful, as do the pickled chickpeas. The chutneys, however, truly enchant me. The peach, coconut, and ginger chutney bowled me over–it’s simple to make and has a delightful subtle flavor profile. It also goes very well with fish and shellfish.

Peach, coconut, ginger chutney

Peach, coconut, ginger chutney

Southeast Asia: This collection includes pickles from Vietnam (daikon and carrot pickle, pickled bean sprouts, and more), Thailand (pickled chiles with lime, sweet pickled garlic, and more), the Philippines (banana ketchup–which I really want to make–among others), Indonesia (hot pickled pineapple and peanuts, and a spiced coconut tamarind chutney that’s calling my name), and finally Malaysia (Malaysian pickled vegetables).

There’s also a glossary to help you understand and find those ingredients you might not be familiar with. Even better, a section of resources that includes other cookbooks and historical books, magazines, and useful websites.

Every recipe we made from this cookbook came out deliciously. I plan to try to keep at least one kind of pickle in the house at all times for healthy snacking, and this book will be providing many of those recipes. As usual, my determination to continue using a review cookbook well after I’ve reviewed it is one of the best signs that the book has impressed me.

NOTE added later: lemon-pickled pears are ADDICTIVE!

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