Take Away from a Vietnamese Cooking Class
After taking a class on Vietnamese cooking several years ago, I’ve become a serious carrot pickler. The crunchy veggies have become a staple in my frig. Using a fork, I fish out a helping from the jar and sprinkle them onto a sandwich, burger, salad, or spring rolls. They also make a colorful, zesty accompaniment to most any meat.
I add scallions to the carrot mix, too, though tradition calls for the use of daikon—the long, Asian radish that looks like a white carrot. It requires an extra run to the store for a daikon, so I settle for carrots and scallions.
This Gadget Makes a Difference
In the cooking class, we chopped the vegetables by hand with a sharp knife. It’s a tedious job that would discourage you from pickling very often. Later I ran onto a clever gadget at Kitchen Conservatory on Clayton Road. The Hiroko julienne peeler is a small, handheld scraper that you pull across the carrot. With little effort you create a number of perfectly shaped pieces with each swipe.
After that it’s just a matter of placing the veggies in a bowl and pouring on the simple pickling mixture made of vinegar, sugar, water and salt (sea or kosher salt, not iodized). That’s it. You can eat your pickles an hour later, but the best flavor comes after several days.
Remember, these pickles are not cooked. They’re refrigerator pickles, not canned pickles. There’s no need to seal them in sterilized jars. They last about a month in the frig, though mine are eaten way before that. In Vietnam the carrot and daikon mixture is referred to as do chua, which means “pickled stuff.”
Enjoy the Crunch!
Nearly every food magazine or food blogger has a version of these crunchy, matchstick veggies: Martha Stewart; Food and Wine; Epicurious. The proportions of the basic ingredients can be changed to achieve either a sweeter or more pungent vegetable.
Use all carrots in the recipe or a combination of carrots, daikon and scallions, whichever suits your taste. Here’s the recipe that I use. Sometime I cut it in half.
Vietnamese-Style Carrot and Daikon Pickles
- 1/2 lb. daikon radish, peeled and julienned (or all carrots)
- 1/2 lb. large carrots, peeled and julienned
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. salt, either kosher or sea salt
- 1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
- 2 Tbs. + 2 tsp. sugar
- 1 cup water
Place cut veggies in a medium bowl. In a saucepan over medium heat, add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar is dissolved.
Pour liquid mixture over the bowl of veggies and toss to coat. Let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pour into Mason jars with lid and refrigerate.