Ingredients

3 cups of shredded or julienned daikon radish
2 cups of shredded or julienned carrot
2 cups of shredded kohlrabi or zucchini or cucumber
3 tablespoons finely shredded fresh red chilis, such as Serrano
1 cup chopped fresh coriander
one bunch scallion, shredded
one sweet onion, such as Vidalia, shredded

Dressing:
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 tablespoon salt

Directions

1. Mix daikon, carrot and kohlrabi, if used, with 1/4 cup sea salt. Set aside in colander over a bowl for an hour or more. Can sit for up to three hours, unrefrigerated.
2. Mix together dressing ingredients til salt and sugar are dissolved. Taste for balance.
3. Squeeze out the vegetables, rinse in cold water, squeeze again. Taste for salt, keep rinsing if necessary. The vegetables should be crisp-limp. Add zucchini or cucumber if using. Add onion, fresh chili, scallion.
4. Toss with dressing, add coriander and let sit for at least an hour before using. If keeping longer, refrigerate in a glass jar. Will keep up to a week, getting better all the time. Fermentation works.

Recipe courtesy of Corky White, Boston University, 2010.

Here is Corky's recipe for Do Chua, a "forgiving," flexible recipe for Vietnamese pickles. She makes them all summer when the produce bin starts bulging, and finds that cabbage can be substituted well for daikon radish.  This is the New Englander's adaptation of Vietnamese pickles, and finally something to do with cabbage besides cole slaw.

I'm with Corky White. Corky is a food anthropologist and someone who is extremely passionate about food. Corky, what are you going to make for me?

Well, today I'm going to make a Vietnamese pickle, and it's called Do Chua. A pickle in name, but not as pickely as some things that we call pickles. That is, it's almost an instant pickle. Well, I think we should start by cutting a few things that may be a little more exotic to people. And one of these is the herb lemon grass. It's called lemon grass because it's a grass and it smells like lemon. It's one of the three things you use in Vietnamese food. You use this, you use garlic, and you use cilantro. And you want to do this very fine because it is so fibrous. It softens in the vinegar we're going to use.

This pickle can be made a day or two ahead. It can be made a week ahead. After that, I think you don't want it. What you can do with this pickle are wonderful things. I've had a hot dog in a hot dog bun with these pickles in it-- to die for.

I read that. Not very Asian. Not very Vietnamese, but it sounds like a great taste.

No. But you know, this is globalization. The next ingredient we're going to use is another aromatic. Besides the lemon grass, we're going to use fresh ginger root. Now ginger root comes in many shapes. One of the pleasures of it is trying to figure out how to peel it because it's so knotty. I'm going to peel a piece of ginger root the old-fashioned way. You can scrape it with a spoon. You can use a vegetable peeler on it, but the vegetable peeler doesn't have the flexibility of your hand and your knife. And we're going to look at the amount of lemon grass we had and put approximately the same amount.

Mind you, when you're making these pickles, there are no measurements. So I'm going to do one more aromatic, and I think we'll do the cilantro. I don't do the bottom stems, but I do the top tender little stems. There we have the aromatic part of this. We have some cucumbers to add now. This turns into the salted vegetables. What we want to do with them is use the salt to draw out the water. Because again, the water is oxygenated and therefore carries microbes. The pickling, even the light pickling, helps to take away whatever microbial actionism. The only bad bacteria that cannot be stopped in this way is, I'm afraid, botulism.

Daikon radish, we call it Daikon because the Japanese radish is the one that's most used in our supermarkets most available in America. They're mild. They're not a heavy-duty sour or spicy or a bitter radish. One of the great things about Daikon is that it does go with everything. You don't need to see these as exotic. In fact, all of this is, as I said, not only readily available but goes with things like roast lamb. This is a great pickle to serve with roast lamb. Forget the mint sauce.

Now a carrot. And carrots are indigenous. We are just doing very thin threads because this is the hardest of our so-called soft vegetables. So you want to be able to get it thin enough so that the seasonings we're going to add to it can penetrate. What we're going to do right now is we're going to salt these vegetables and then wash the salt off after the water has been drained from them. So I'm going to take ordinary sea salt and I'm going to sprinkle some amount.

Almost dredging them in the salt.

Yeah, I am. And in about 15 minutes to half an hour later you will have soft, limp vegetables. The spine has been taken out of them along with the water. While this is macerating-- a word I love --I think what we'll do is do something with this. I usually add a sugar syrup. In addition, a sweet rice wine vinegar. Or you can simply add the sugar to it. Straight on white sugar, really simple. It'll dissolve eventually.

The two other liquids-- this one is sesame oil, which I love sesame oil on anything. And measuring carefully you pour that in. And this one is Nuoc Man, which is Vietnamese fish sauce. It's actually made from salted, fermented anchovies. And some people have a little soy sauce. I don't because I like the vegetables to remain their colors. I like to keep the color in it. And I think that this is now ready.

So it's looking a little bit wilted even.

Yeah, you'd think. And you can squeeze it.

And look at all the liquid coming out the bottom.

Look at that.

The salt is leaching out all the liquid.

Indeed. That means that you're also setting up an anaerobic barrier. One of the things that you will do if you don't like the salt-- and I actually think the salt continues to make the pickle work --you can drain it with clean water and squeeze it again and dry it out that way to get a little of the salt out.

So we have some more ingredients here.

These are the last things we're going to add to our Do Chua. Add some hot chili-- medium-hot, not the hottest --some scallion and some garlic, and then some shredded Vidalia or any sweet onion. This is going to be the most sensual pickle even though it hasn't sat around in the potting shed. But it is ready to eat now.

It's beautiful. So I could have this for lunch?

You could have this with your cheese sandwich. It would be fabulous with a cheese sandwich. But you could also put it in a jar like this. But you're not keeping it anyway for more than a week-- not that it would last that long. It will improve for the first few days, and then it will be stable for another few days.

And it will probably get a little softer as the week goes on.

It'll get softer. And after that, perhaps it will become a science project.

Well, It smells so wonderful. Thank you very much, Corky.

Well, you're very welcome.

I learned a lot too.

Well, it's always fun.

Vietnamese Pickled Salad
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