Tuesday, May 10, 2011

vietnamese pickles recipe

I want to start off today’s post by just saying a quick little thank you to everyone that commented on my last post. You’re all too sweet. Also just to let you know, in case you were wondering what the world was coming to… it isn’t often that we get comments like those, 99% of the time it’s just me feeling like we are being a pain in butt, and not so much people actually commenting. Mostly, everyone I know has been nothing but supportive of our dietary restrictions, especially those who have seen first hand how our kids reacted when they were younger.
So thank you lovely friends and family. Xxx

Right, let’s talk pickles. 

Way back when I was just starting my cooking career, my first job was at a little café in my hometown of Raglan, New Zealand. I started out there as a keen little 16-year-old, working on the weekends and in my school holidays, washing dishes and doing basic kitchen prep. I was the baby of the team and loved going to work to discover all the new and wonderful foods being cooked up. As this was my first kitchen job, the only food I really knew up until this point was my mums (which is amazing, just very New Zealand). So when my (half Malaysian) boss started introducing me to Asian ingredients and dishes it just about blew my mind! I still remember the first time she took me into Hamilton, the city near home, to go shopping at the Asian supermarket. The smells and assortment of weird and wonderful ingredients still to this day amazes me. I can often be found, wandering around Asian supermarkets; picking up items, smelling them, turning the packet from one side to the other, inspecting it, trying to figure out what it is and how I can use it.
One day in the kitchen Patti, my boss, passed me a little deep-brown, sticky nugget of tamarind. I had never heard of it before. I think I must have screwed up my nose or something, because she then said, go on try it Emm, you’ll love it, it’s sweet and sour at the same time! To this day, it is still one of my favourite things to eat. Either in dishes or as Patti had once given it to me, as a little nugget pulled straight from the block. 

Okay, so none of this has any relevance to pickles now does it? Well, yes. It does, kinda. No, my pickles don’t contain tamarind, although that may be nice? I know tamarind chutney is nice… but where this story has relevance is because it was way back then, that I first started making pickles. A chef that I worked with used to cook this fish dish that had a little tangled nest of pickled cucumber perching on top. For someone like me, who loves sour and much as sweet, those finely sliced little shreds of cucumber were an instant favourite. When I was on night-shift, more often than not I would put together a random salad for dinner consisting of; salad leaves, tomato, feta and cold roast vegetables with a generous spoonful of pickled cucumber. A wedge of hummus and chutney-spread bread to the side, and I was happy as.

Now, I’ve called these Vietnamese pickles in the loosest of terms. Mostly because I know other Asian cultures do similar. But after living with my Vietnamese mother-in-law for over 6 weeks, her pickled carrot and daikon is what I loved the most. Here, I’ve used my original pickled cucumber recipe, but added carrot and daikon as she does. I tried out two different mixes; one with thinly sliced carrot, daikon and fresh chilli, the other with julienne carrot, daikon and cucumber. Both are delicious.

The thing I love about Vietnamese cuisine is how dinner is never just one dish. An assortment of dishes are presented, along with the highly addictive (but fish-sauce containing, for those of you who don’t eat fish) nuoc mam dipping sauce, rice, fresh herbs and pickles. Everyone eats with a little bowl of rice, while grabbing little bits of whatever tickles their fancy. Such a lovely, communal way of eating.

I like to keep a jar of these pickles in my fridge to liven up stir-frys, to add to salads, to eat with eggs, or to simply eat straight from the fridge with a fork!
My only word of warning, just so you don’t curse me after making them, is prepare your nose to experience a rather huge pong when you open the lid! The daikon really does add it’s own, ermm, unique smell once pickled. Please don’t let it put you off eating them.

P.s Just one teeny tiny little favour... I would love your votes over at the babble.com's top mom blogger awards, please click here to vote. Many thanks xxx

Vietnamese pickles recipe
This is really just a recipe for the actual pickling syrup. I've given estimates of the amount of the vegetables it will pickle, you may find you have excess syrup leftover if your carrots or daikon are smaller than mine, simply store the leftover syrup in a glass jar in the fridge. Use this to pickle more vegetables as you need them. It's best to use a mandolin to thinly slice the vegetables. If you don't own one, I'd recommended you julienne (slice into thin matchsticks) instead.  
Makes approx 3-4 cups of pickles.

  • 300ml cider or rice wine vinegar
  • 600ml water
  • 2/3 cup (150g) organic raw sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 3 carrots, thinly sliced or julienne
  • 1 small daikon, peeled and thinly sliced or julienne
  • 1/3 of a telegraph cucumber, thinly sliced or julienne
  • 1/2-1 long red chilli, thinly sliced (optional)

Place vinegar, water, sugar and salt into a medium saucepan. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn down to a simmer and cook for a further 3-4 minutes until slightly syrupy. Remove from the heat and set aside until completely cool.

Pour the syrup over the sliced vegetables and transfer into clean glass jars. Store in the fridge for up to 2-3 weeks. I find it's best to let the flavours mingle for 1-2 days before eating.


  1. This looks tasty!

  2. Oh, I love sweet and sour and tangy and crunchy - and you are so lucky to have such a great mother-in-law!

    Thank you xxx

  4. Hooray for pickles in all their forms!!

  5. I love the sweet/sour/ crunch too. And these lovely pickles are good for digestion and regulating blood sugars too. Yumm...

  6. Pretty colours! I never used to like them as a child (I guess all the superstrong flavours) but yes, I now enjoy eating pickles and chutneys straight out of the jar. Never tried eating straight tamarind though, might have to try that next time I get some. I love its lemony-sour taste in other foods, makes sense it'd be nice as is!

  7. This made me think back to my first kitchen job - I washed dishes when I was 14 or maybe 15 at a little cafe owned by a couple of Canadians in Remmers (heh!) Also, thanks for the nod toward foodie.co.nz, I didn't know of them - I'm gonna write a few posts for them myself ^_^

  8. Oh I love pickles & these look amazing! Love sweet & sour & these look just the ticket.

  9. Hey, wondering if I could add Star Anise to this recipe. I had pickles like this once and they had that ingredient...what do you think? how much would I use?

    1. I've not had pickles with star anise in them before, but it would be yum! I'd only add one or two star anise to the syrup at the start as they have a strong flavour. Let me know how you get on :-)


Thanks so much for stopping by, arohanui xx Emm

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