Vegetarian

Wasabi-pickled Cucumber

This a quick and simple Japanese pickle which makes a great addition to any Japanese meal. You can either use gherkin, Israeli, Kirby or small Mediterranean cucumbers for this recipe, but not the English variety as it is too watery.

Feel free to add more wasabi if you like it hot!

For more great Japanese recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

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Beni Shōga (Red Ginger Pickle) 紅生姜

Beni ShogaPopularly served with donburi (rice-bowls) such as gyūdon and katsudon, beni shōga is perhaps one of the most common pickles found in Japan.

Unlike most other Japanese pickles, beni shōga is, in fact, eaten more like a condiment than a side dish. Much like one would expect to find an obligatory bottle of ketchup on a table in the Western-style dinner, many Japanese eateries have bowls of beni shōga for their patrons to pile onto their donburi. It is so readily available throughout Japan, these slithers of red ginger are (to my mind at least) synonymous with a wide range of my favourite Japanese dishes, so much so, none of which taste the same without it. Unfortunately, beni shōga is very hard to find outside of Japan – something that I find deeply frustrating given its integral role in so many Japanese dishes.

My irritation with the lack of authentic Japanese ingredients available in the rest of the world is compounded, in part, by the continued popularity of the lumo-pink version of gari that has become a plague upon Japanese cuisine in the West. Not only is our beloved “garish-gari” a pickled aberration not found in Japan (where it’s a considerably less alarming beige), it has also served to limit our appreciation and expectations of the diversity of Japanese food. Next time you top your sushi with that Barbie-pink slice of ginger, please give a pause to consider the other amazing taste experiences that have been side-lined in the attempt to repackage and homogenise Japanese food for Western tastes. Our ever developing palettes deserve diversity and until we put down our salmon nigiri and demand better, simple delights like beni shōga will forever be beyond our common reach.

With all that said, what’s a man to do? Well if you are me, you’ve just got to make your own beni shōga, of course!

After resolving to take my pickle-destiny into my own hands, I discovered that making my own beni shōga may not seem as impossible as I first assumed. Other than the standard pickling liquid, the lay-men’s  recipe really just has two ingredients – ginger and umeboshi (pickled Japanese plums). Luckily, umeboshi also features in Chinese cuisine and is therefore relatively easy to source locally. Pickled red from the juices of the Japanese plum (ume), the ginger does take a bit of time to take on the colour from the plums, but the end result is a pretty close approximation to the real thing. It may not be perfect, but given the scarcity of beni shōga outside Japan, who would really know the difference anyway!

For more great Japanese recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

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Japanese Daikon & Carrot Pickle

Daikon & Carrot PickleNo Japanese meal would be complete without a pickle (or two), and this classic asazuke (quick pickle) will make a great addition to any meal.

Incredibly tasty and ready to eat in just under an hour, daikon & carrot pickle is sure to become a regular household staple.

For more great Japanese recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

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Quick Cucumber & Ginger Pickle

Quick Cucumber and Ginger Pickle

Sweet and crunchy, this pickle is quick and easy, complimenting just about any Japanese meal.

The pickle takes at least a couple of hours in the fridge to work its magic, but after that it should keep for at least a few days before losing its texture and crunch.

For more great Japanese recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

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Vietnamese Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Đồ Chua)

Vietnamese Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Đồ Chua)A classic Vietnamese pickle that goes with just about everything and can be found throughout Vietnam. Đồ Chua, however, goes especially well with sweet dishes like Braised Pork in Coconut Water (Thịt Kho Tàu), as the sharp pickle helps cut through the pervasive sweetness and creates an element of balance in the meal.

Quick and simple, this pickle can be made and eaten on the same day or it will last for a couple of weeks if kept in the fridge.

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Tarka Dhal

Tarka DhalDhal is perhaps the unsung hero of Indian cuisine. All too often dismissed as a poor man’s curry or a dreary side dish, dhal is in fact so much more. Nutritious, simple and varied, dhal deserves to feature in any Indian meal. Personally, I could happily tuck into just a bowl of dhal and rice!

This recipe is dhal in its purest form. Flavoured with turmeric and seasoned with a tarka, this dhal recipe is delightfully simple and incredibly tasty.

The recipe uses two different types of dhal, red and yellow, but feel free just use 150g of either.

Unlike curries, dhal is best eaten on the same day it is made.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here

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Lobia Khumbi (Black-eyed Beans with Mushrooms)

Sometimes the best meals come into your life quite unexpectedly and they stay with you forever – this is such a dish!

Many years ago I was planning a dinner party and one of the guests came with a painfully long list of dietary restrictions, chief amongst them being the double-act of inconvenience that is veganism and gluten intolerance! As I suffer from neither affliction, my instinctive response was just to cancel the dinner altogether, problem solved! Never one to back down from a culinary challenge, however, I decided to go ahead with the dinner after all and serve the mother of all vegan cuisines – I went Indian.

Lobia Khumbi (Black-eyed Beans with Mushrooms)Your rogan joshs and butter chickens aside, Indian food is perhaps the most karma-conscious cuisine in the world. With a mind boggling array of vegan and vegetarian dishes to choose from, one is never short of tasty delights from the sub-continent. An Indian feast is always a great option for a dinner party as the multiple dishes needed, allow you to cater for a wide range of tastes and needs, all without compromising the overall success of the meal. Generally speaking, whether the dish be vegan or laden with meat, all Indian food goes well together.

Which brings me to this particular recipe. Lobia Khumbi (Black-eyed Beans with Mushrooms) is a great addition to any Indian spread, be it part of a full-on feast or humble midweek meal. Hearty, wholesome and filling, this dish is so good it could almost turn me vegan! Whilst the black-eyed beans add an earthy undertone that balances out the spices, the mushrooms are actually the star of the dish, adding a “meatiness” that appeals to both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. Add some tarka dhal and rice to the mix and you have a meal fit for the most pious (and discerning) monk. Who knew that good karma could ever be so damn dharma-delicious.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Note: this dish also makes an excellent alternative to your traditional sides dishes like mash potato, as it is mild enough to “fit” comfortably alongside most flavours. I recently served it with some pan-fried fish, sautéed kale and a tomato lemon butter sauce and it was absolute fusion-heaven!

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