Thursday, February 21, 2013

Impatient pickles

Elizabeth Andoh's Washoku is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. It introduced me to a cuisine that I didn't know existed (Japanese food that wasn't sushi or ramen) and to a completely new vocabulary. Within that cookbook, one recipe stood out: Impatient Pickles. Not because I loved the recipe--I didn't--but because of the name.

Was it me who was too impatient to wait five days for pickles? Or was it the vegetables themselves, absolutely gagging to be pickled? Maybe it was both.

Elizabeth Andoh was also the person who taught me about the tabletop pickle pot. In Washoku, she writes: " the mid-1960s, a clever screw-top device, the shokutaku tsukemono ki, or "tabletop pickle pot," come on the scene and became an instant best-seller with homemakers in cramped urban kitchens. The small plastic pot sits on the kitchen counter, where it transforms bits and pieces of shredded cabbage or other leftover vegetables into a spirited side dish in only a few hours."

I have a tabletop pickle press stored in my parents' garage after my last international move, but realized--while in Tokyo and standing in Tokyu Hands' kitchen department--that I couldn't live without one much longer. I ended up also buying an extra bag at Tokyu Hands, as is my custom, to bring back the giant piles of kitchen crap that I was certain I could not live without. Luckily, my decision regarding the pickle pot was the right one, because I've eaten nearly nothing but pickles of various types for the last month.

My favorites are very simple: smashed cucumber with garlic and salt, and daikon and carrots with vinegar, sugar and kombu. These delicious pickles make a great accompaniment to meals, or to have with a beer. I like to nibble on them all day, but that's because I'm part bovine.

If you're looking for a pickle press (and you should be) they carry a couple of different types on Amazon.

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