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Palate-cleansing pickles

By PAULINE D LOH | China Daily | Updated: 2019-02-23 10:06
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Meicai kourou, pork with pickled vegetable. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Crunchy, tangy, sweet or sour-they are a cornerstone of Chinese cuisine

After a month of feasting, the Spring Festival binging is slowly winding down. Many are now eating light, to recover from the overindulgence and rich foods. In our family, we're raiding the pantry and digging deep into the pickle jars.


From the sour pickled whole cabbages in the north to the salted radishes in the center and south, pickles are a major part of every branch of cuisine in China.

Pickles may be sweet, sour, tart, pungent or salty and their making may involve the fermenting of vegetables, fruit, meat or fish-depending on what's available and abundant.

The range is wide and varied and pickles may be eaten on their own, or used as seasoning. Often, they are the result of frugality, used as a means of preserving extra food that cannot be eaten at once.

In days past when logistics limited the distribution of green vegetables in the cold seasons, pickling was one way to keep vegetables on the menu.

In certain provinces like Sichuan in the southwest, glass pickle pots are specially designed and may hold anything from pig trotters and chicken claws to chunks of crisp cabbages, carrots, cucumbers, celery hearts and radishes-always spiced with the region's tongue-numbing peppercorns and chili peppers.

The Sichuan pickles are crisp and fresh and depend on a natural fermentation nurtured by the hot, humid climate. Once the first batch is successfully produced, the pickling brine is carefully preserved, so successive lots can be kickstarted with ease.

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