I don't know if pickles are part of 'normal' eating for other people but they are for me. In these times when everyone is oh-so-busy, is it necessary to make your pickles? Oh yes it is, when I eat the amount I do! Some folks polish off ice-cream by the tub; I inhale pickles by the truckload. To each his/her own, I guess.
I love achar, my favourite amongst tart and crisp preserved veggies, but making it takes some time. When I want something easier, I go for Jacky Yu's Sichuan style cucumber pickle.
Unlike Nyonya achar, Sichuan style pickling doesn't involve grinding and frying spices or roasting peanuts. A few tablespoonfuls of hot broad bean paste, chilli oil and white sesame oil provide all the oomph needed.
Unscrew a few bottles and pour. How easy is that?
And if I want it even easier, I could opt out of cutting up the cucumbers. A few hard whacks from the cleaver would suffice, which is how it's done by the northerners. They, unlike the southerners, prefer a less fussy approach when it comes to food. Sounds like fun, doesn't it, smashing cucumbers with a big knife?
You could, of course, eat pickles as a condiment. A few slices with any meat – braised, roasted, whatever – would be quite nice. Or you could do what I do. Have a heap of pickles with a few slices of meat.
|SPICY PICKLED CUCUMBERS|
Source: Xi Yan Cuisine II, Jacky Yu
(Recipe for 12 portions as a side dish)
1.2 kg cucumbers
1 tbsp salt
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground
4 tbsp hot broad bean paste
2-4 tbsp chilli oil, to taste
250 g sugar (1¼ cups)
300 ml vinegar (1¼ cups)
4 tbsp white sesame oil
Cut about 2-3 cm from top of cucumbers. Rub cut side of each top against cut side of each cucumber till milky substance appears. Discard tops. Rinse cucumbers and dry with paper towels. Trim tails and cores. Cut into batons. Mix with salt. Leave to sweat for ½ hour. Rinse and dry with paper towels. Mix with all other ingredients and refrigerate, covered. Wait 12 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Pickle may be served after another 12 hours.