Sweeten or Sour Up Your Meals

Learn to make a variety of easy Asian pickles.

Asian Pickles at Home: 75 Easy Recipes for Quick, Fermented, and Canned Pickles Paperback
by Patricia Tanumihardja
(Rockridge Press, Copyright © 2020 by Callisto Media)

Pickles—quick, fermented, canned, fruity Indian chutneys or fiery chile-garlic pastes—are a staple with meals in many Asian cultures, and they’re always a welcome (and often healthful) way to sweeten or sour up a meal. Now is a particularly good time to make them, with late-summer harvest spilling over in produce bins at the market.

Patricia Tanumihardja’s latest book provides readers with a history of pickling, a technique and science guide, and easy-to-follow recipes. Recipes go beyond the usual combinations of cucumbers, chiles, cabbages, onions, and other pickle basics to include simple step-by-step instructions for dozens of different Asian pickles from Japan, Korea, China, India, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Ingredients are, for the most part, easily obtained from local markets. Recipes include standards like Classic Cabbage Kimchi, as well as less familiar combinations like Vietnamese Salty Limeade, Banana Ketchup, Miso-Cured Daikon, Apple and Celery Kimchi, and Asian Pear and Fennel Pickles. An excellent primer for cooks new to pickling as well as old hands looking for more creative combinations.

Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with our readers. 


The Indonesian word oelek means to “to grind,” and sambaI oelek refers to a chile paste that is ground in a mortar with a pestle. In its simplest form, this chile paste is made from chiles, salt, and lime juice. You can always add some bird or Thai chiles to make it spicier. While you can find sambal oelek in jars, in Indonesia it’s always made fresh to order. You’ll love how much fresher tasting this quick option is. I like it on fried rice and as a dip for fresh vegetables. If you want to make it in bulk, just multiply the ingredients and use a food processor.

Makes: ¼ cup I Prep time: 10 minutes

2½ ounces fresh long red chiles (2 chiles), like Fresno or serrano, seeded if desired and chopped
1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh lime or Key lime juice
Pinch sugar (optional)

Place the chiles and salt in a mortar. Grind the chiles with the pestle, using a twisting motion, until pulpy. Stir in the lime juice and sugar (if using). Taste and adjust the seasonings if desired. Serve immediately.

SWITCH IT UP: There are dozens of different types of chile paste in Indonesia. Try experimenting by adding ingredients like garlic, shallots, lemongrass, and lime leaves.


Soy sauce–pickled eggs are easy to make yet packed with umami. Some recipes add sake and kombu (dried kelp) to the mix, while others have only two ingredients, soy sauce and mirin. If you’re feeling fancy, add some spices, perhaps star anise, shichimi togarashi (7-spice blend), or cumin.

Makes: 6 eggs I Prep time: 20 minutes I Cook time: 6 minutes I Pickling time: 4 to 24 hours

2 quarts water, plus ½ cup
6 large eggs
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup mirin
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
¼ cup sugar

In a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Gently drop the eggs into the saucepan straight from the refrigerator. Adjust the heat so that the water is simmering gently (around 190° F), and simmer the eggs for 6 minutes (longer, if you prefer your eggs firmer). Prepare a bowl of ice water. When the eggs are done, remove them with a slotted spoon and dunk them in the ice water to stop them from cooking further.

When the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel them and arrange them so they fit snugly into a nonreactive container. (I use a rectangular 4-cup glass container with a tight-fitting lid.)

In a mixing bowl, mix together the soy sauce, mirin, remaining ½ cup of water, rice vinegar, and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves completely. Pour the brine over the eggs. Place a folded paper towel over the eggs to keep them submerged under the brine for at least 4 hours, or up to 24 hours. The yolks will start to cure if they remain in the brine for too long. Drain the eggs and store in the refrigerator. The eggs will keep for 3 to 4 days.

TRY IT WITH: Soy sauce–pickled eggs make a satisfying mid afternoon snack, or eat them as your protein with a bowl of ramen or some rice.