Condiment

Kkakdugi 깍두기 (Cubed Daikon Kimchi)

I have an unholy passion for kimchi and I’m not ashamed to admit it! I simply can’t get enough of this spicy Korean delight and it seems I am not alone. Some of my most popular posts to date have been kimchi related, so I thought it was about time I fed our collective obsession and posted another kimchi recipe. So this time around, I’m making one of my favourite types of kimchikkakdugi or cubed daikon kimchi.

Kkakdugi 깍두기 (Cubed Daikon Kimchi)Perhaps second only in popluarity to the almighty mak kimchi, kkakdugi is a great addition to any Korean dining experience. As you would expect with any type of kimchi, this version of the Korean staple is wonderfully piquant and highly addictive; though unlike most others, daikon kimchi has a delightful crunch and crispness to it which helps temper the spiciness of the chilli powder.

Personally, I find the process of making kkakdugi marginally less involved than mak kimchi and the fermenting period is also a little bit shorter, meaning you don’t have to wait quite as along to tuck into your kimchi! On the downside, kkakdugi doesn’t seem to fair as well as other kimchis in terms of its shelf-life, however, this may have more to do with my lack of technique and experience than a shortcoming of the dish!

With regard to technique, making any sort of kimchi is a matter of trial and error. Whilst the core process for making kimchi remains similar for each variety, each version has its own quirks and it may take a few attempts before you end up with a kimchi that suits your own tastes and preferences. Making the perfect kkakdugi has, up to now, been particularly vexing for me as I often find the kimchi comes out too watery and the daikon too limp. I have now taken to draining off the excess water as the kimchi ferments and I have also stopped peeling my daikon – both these seemingly minor tweaks to the process has resulted in a far superior end result (at least in my opinion).

For more Korean recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Japanese Pickles (Tsukemono 漬物)

Pickles are an integral part of Japanese cuisine. Eaten with virtually every meal, pickles provide balance of flavour or are used as a palate cleanser, as is the case when eating sushi. Also considered a key element to maintaining a healthy diet, it should come as not surprise that the Japanese are somewhat fanatical about their pickles!

Commonly referred to as tsukemono, there is seemingly no end to what the Japanese will pickle or preserve! Often eaten as a side dish or as a garnish, virtually no vegetable is safe from being salted and preserved, but daikons, carrots, cucumbers and Chinese (napa) cabbage are firm favourites. The Japanese’s love of pickles is not limited to their own, Korean staples such as kimchi are also readily served as part of a Japanese meal, although such spicy preserves are a departure from your typical tsukemono.

In terms of tsukemono as a condiment or garnish, beni shoga is perhaps the most commonly eaten pickle in Japan. Made by pickling ginger in red umeboshi brine, it is almost always used as a garnish on okonomiyaki, gyūdon and yakisoba. Outside of Japan though, the most likely form of tsukemono you’ll encounter is gari, which is ubiquitous with sushi and sashimi, although you are unlikely to find the lumo-pink version in Japan, where gari is normally a less alarming beige.

Whilst a bewildering array of tsukemono can be readily bought in Japanese supermarkets, many Japanese still go to the effort of making their own. Thankfully, making your own tsukemono it is actually quite straightforward, usually all you need is some salt and time. Typically the preserving process can take quite a while to complete, however, mercifully, some Japanese pickles take considerably less time to make. Known as asazuke, these pickles can be ready to eat in a matter of hours, if not less. Often less salty than tsukemono that have been fully preserved, these “shallow” pickles are actually more palatable to Western tastes.

With that in mind, here are some of my favourite, must-have, Japanese pickles (please follow the links for the recipes):

Quick Cucumber & Ginger Pickle

Quick Cucumber & Ginger Pickle

Beni Shoga

Daikon & Carrot Pickle

Napa Cabbage Kimchi

Napa Cabbage Kimchi

Wasabi-pickled Cucumbers

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst all of the above recipes are relatively quick and easy to make, with pickling times ranging from an hour to a few days, all would make worthy additions to any Japanese meal. Whether it be a full-on feast or a humble bowl of gyūdon, no true Japanese meal would be complete without just a small nibble of tsukemono!

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

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

Click here for the recipe

Ssamjang (Spicy Korean Dipping Sauce)

Ssamjang Dipping SauceA classic Korean dipping sauce.

Typically eaten with galbi, ssamjang is usually smeared onto a lettuce leaf, along with a morsel of barbequed meat and raw vegetables. Ssamjang’s appeal is not just confined to being a condiment for Korean food; it is also great on burgers and is insanely good in grilled/toasted cheese sandwiches! The soya bean paste gives the sauce a wonderful smoky depth which, in truth, goes with just about any kind of barbequed meat – Korean or not!

For years I have always thought of ssamjang as being a hot, spicy sauce, and why would I think otherwise? Ssamjang is, after all, a Korean condiment. And then, quite by chance, I recently re-read the recipe and realised that I had, in fact, been confusing the quantities of the soya bean and chilli pastes! I was mortified. My beloved spicy ssamjang was, in fact, nothing more than a fiery aberration! At any rate, it turned out to be a happy mistake, as both versions are equally tasty. I have just come to think of my spicy ssamjang as being my personal contribution to Korean cuisine.

The following recipe is actually for the traditional version of the sauce, but if you would like to try my mutant ssamjang, simply reverse the quantities of the chilli and soya bean pastes (i.e. 1/4 cup gochujang and 1 tbsp. doenjang).

For more Korean recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Korean Pantry, please click HERE

Click here for the recipe

Nước Màu (Vietnamese Caramel Sauce)

Considered an essential component in many classic Vietnamese dishes (such as Bún Chả and Thịt Kho Tàu), caramel sauce (Nước Màu) is perhaps one of the single most important ingredients in Vietnamese cooking. Used to add depth of flavour to a wide range of dishes, caramel sauce also adds colour and imparts a sweet, smoky undertone.

Click here for the recipe

Tonkatsu Sauce とんかつソース

There is a lot to be said for living in Cape Town, most of which is unequivocally positive; the setting is stunning, the weather is perfect and the people are lovely. However, when it comes to sourcing Asian products, it can be described as trying at the best of times.

Tonkatsu SauceDon’t get me wrong, things have improved dramatically in the last decade, but inconsistency is still the bane of the local Asian food market. Items that were readily available one year, are suddenly nonexistent the next – it can be very frustrating to say the least! Japanese goods, in particular, seem to fall victim to this fickle approach to supply; making it hard to replenish an ever diminishing pantry.

So what do you do when you’ve finish your last bottle of store-bought Tonkatsu Sauce? If you’re me, you’d try to make your own of course! Now I would never bother making my own Tonkatsu Sauce if it was readily available to buy, but it isn’t, so I have to improvise. This recipe isn’t quite perfect, but it is a very passable approximation. If you can, however, source it locally, stop reading this recipe immediately. Go buy a bottle and count yourself lucky!

Note: Tonkatsu Sauce is a Japanese condiment that is traditionally served with Tonkatsu (Crumbed Pork Cutlet) or Chicken Katsu (Crumbed Chicken) with steamed rice and salad. It can also be used as a substitute for Okonomi Sauce for Okonomiyaki, if unavailable.

For more Japanese recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Japanese Pantry, please click HERE

Click here for the recipe