In the colder months of the year (spring, where are you?), it’s easy for us to focus on umami-filled, warm, hearty, comforting foods. Who can blame you, really, when there’s been snow and rain non-stop? It’s easy to overdo it, however, and end up with a meal that is too rich, too heavy, or too cloying. One of the elements of Japanese cuisine that I have always admired and respected is the balance in a meal. Saltiness, sweetness, umami, bitterness and sourness all come together and create harmony on your tongue.
This condiment – literally translated as shallow pickles – is a fantastic way to bring balance to your dish. It gets is name from the fact that the pickling is fast – you can serve this as early as an hour after making it. Creating it in small batches is ideal since it’s at its best within the first few days of making it; unlike your typical pickle, the asazuke is meant to be fresh and bright, still retaining the original flavour and crispness of the vegetable. Serve as a side to your next salty, meaty dish, or as a palate cleanser… or just as a snack!
• 3–4 medium carrots, cut as batonettes or sliced on an angle (I used heirloom carrots.)
• 1 cup rice wine vinegar
• 4 tbsp sugar
• 1 tsp coarse salt
• Optional additions:
• Chilli powder or whole Thai chillis (to taste)
• Substitute other vegetables such as cucumber, nappa cabbage, daikon, cauliflower, eggplant, or a combination of all of the above
1. After cutting the vegetables, place them in a sealable container (like a recycled jam jar).
2. Mix the sugar and salt into the vinegar until it is fully dissolved, then follow with the chilli (optional). Taste this mixture and adjust the measurements as needed, to your taste (whether you want the pickles sweeter, more sour, more spicy, etc.)
3. Pour this mixture over the vegetables until they’re completely submerged.
4. Seal and refrigerate the pickles for at least one hour before serving, and consume within a week.