I love all the banchan sides served at the Korean table. In the realm of Korean dumplings (called mandu), banchan provide wonderful textural and flavor contrast to the soft chewy dough and savory filling. This simple pickle recipe embodies a Korean pickling method called jang-ajji in which the featured vegetable marinates in tangy sweet soy and vinegar. Traditionally, the raw vegetable steeps in the brine for weeks. I speed things up by bringing all the ingredients up to a boil and then turning the heat off. The crisp texture remains intact.
Korean cooks typically make either a chile pepper jang ajji or a garlic jang ajji. I like them both so I combined them into one. You can separate them if you’d like. The garlic mellows so it’s safe for date night!
Pickled jalapeno and garlic add spicy kick and pungent bite to any savory Korean mandu, whether the filling is kimchi or meat and tofu. The brining liquid can be used as a dipping sauce for steamed, poached, pan-fried or deep-fried mandu. If your jalapeño chiles are super hot (they tend to be when the heat is on), hollow out the center of the chiles to remove the membrane and seeds before you slice them.
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
4 large jalapeño chiles, or 2 large jalapeño chiles and 1 large head of garlic
6 tablespoons light (regular) soy sauce
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 to 3-inch strip lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler to remove from lemon), optional
1. Trim the stem from the chiles and then slice crosswise into circles a good 1/8 inch thick. Transfer them to a bowl, leaving any seeds that may have fallen off behind. (I like to use the cut stem end to scoot the chiles onto your knife and deposit them into the bowl.) If you are using the garlic, peel the cloves; do your best to keep them as intact as possible.
2. Put the soy sauce, vinegar, water, and sugar into a small saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Taste and adjust the flavor for a savory-tart-slightly-sweet flavor. Add the lemon peel.
3. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the chiles (and garlic, if using) and stir to combine. When the mixture returns to a boil, turn off the heat. Set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring the mixture occasionally to ensure even exposure. Transfer to a jar and chill overnight before eating. This pickle keeps well for a good month!
If you tweak the recipe (maybe using a different chile) please share your technique.