Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon: An Ode and a Giveaway

Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon: An Ode and a Giveaway

There are the cookbooks you love and then there are the cookbooks that forever change your kitchen life.  Karen Solomon’s Asian Pickles is both for me and has been ever since I bought it as a series of ebooks released late in 2013.  The hardcover book, where you can find all of the ebooks bound together, was released this year. It includes added material which is crazy because the ebooks were already an overstuffed accordion folder of wonderful offerings.

Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon

The pickles pictured are from the Chinese pickles section. A truly surprising and spicy pickle that I made into a ferment.

The book is broken down into geographical sections: Japan, Korea, China, India and Southeast Asia, which includes recipes for Thai, Vietnamese, Philipino, and Indonesian and Malaysian pickles.  Each chapter is a delight that showcases Solomon’s spirited love for the pickled dishes of these places where she has traveled, learned and eaten extremely well.

Last year I spent most of my time with the Japanese ebook, building a houseful of miso beds, nukdokos and cooking up loads of koji.  After my first weekend with Solomon’s Japan, I bought the lot, and rarely have I made such an excellent culinary/literary decision. Although the hardcover, combined book goes well beyond the realm of fermented pickles, it feels like a fermenter wrote this book. The tone is relaxed, encouraging and often quite funny. The descriptions are extraordinarily evocative. Step-by-step photos could not be less necessary than they are with Solomon’s prose leading you into the temptation of wildly diverse pickling styles.

Some misozuke that I made because this book inspired me to!

Some misozuke that I made because this book inspired me to!

There are plenty of things here you are just going to want to make, be they fermented or refrigerated. There are plenty of cultured and fermented vegetables, made in traditional and less traditional fashions. There are plenty of recipes that are not written as ferments that are easily made into ferments (I’ve adapted several of the recipes from the Chinese and Indian sections of this book from vinegar pickles to ferments with great success).

I’ve spent a lot of time with this book and it will be on my shelf until the end of time or until it falls apart at the binding (I guess that’s what three-hole punches and binder rings are for). There are layers and layers of flavors here. There are so many brilliant and astounding techniques from different Asian traditions that you may sometimes feel shocked that you’ve been able to live your kitchen life without knowing many of them. I certainly was.

Look familiar kimchi lovers? A little summer 'chi for your cukes!

Look familiar kimchi lovers? A little summer ‘chi for your cukes!

In addition to the incredible number of techniques and the beautifully conceived and conveyed recipes, Solomon offers an overview of how each type of pickle would traditionally be served and eaten. This book made me realize that I was stuck in a rut, even though I was experimenting in the kitchen every day. It gave me the nudge to make things like my nukadoko and my first batch of indoor gochujang (for years I’d been hung up on the idea that it needed to be made outdoors in the sun). It’s had me putting my funky, fun herbs and spices to excellent use and it has inspired never-ending reams of ideas that I will share with you, undoubtedly, over the course of many years to come.

Just a little turmeric chutney! A great example of a recipe that isn't fermented but could easily become so.

Just a little turmeric chutney! A great example of a recipe that isn’t fermented but could easily become so.

If you don’t win the giveaway, buy this book. I can’t imagine a fermenter who wouldn’t adore it from cover to cover.  When not in use, it holds the truest place of honor in my home; right next to my (now signed!) copy of The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz on my fermentation bookshelf.

I purchased the ebooks, but I was provided with a free copy of the printed version by Ten Speed Press. Ten Speed will also be providing the winner with his or her own copy to hold, squeeze, love and splatter with delicious, pickled juices. All opinions are my own.

These recipes, you guys. The awesome never ends.

These recipes, you guys. The awesome never ends.

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39 comments

  1. Denise says:

    I love my own fermented kraut, pickles and hot sauces, because I can make them food allergy free for me, and because they help with vitamins since I can’t take any supplements any more because of my food allergies.

  2. Judy says:

    I want to learn more about Japanese pickles. I’m looking forward to reading Asian Pickles for all the recipes but the Japanese intrigue me the most.

  3. Devon Hernandez says:

    I’m most interested in learning more about Indian pickles! And any Malaysian or Thai ones that are hidden in that gorgeous book! I love Karen’s other books and would love to add this to my collection and make some delicious pickles. Thanks for the giveaway! :)

  4. Birgit K says:

    I’m not sure I can decide which section I’m the most interested in as I really just want to learn it all, but if I HAD to decide on just one, I’d say I’m most interested in the Indian pickles!

  5. Marilee Reyes says:

    I am just getting into pickling and fermented foods and would love this book and put it to good use. Thanks for the opportunity. I’m hoping I’ve done all the right things to be entered. Take care.

  6. Karen Chrestay says:

    Just made my first Cucumber KimChi this weekend. Needs a couple more days fermentation, but can’t wait to try it. Would love to learn more about Asian pickling and fermenting!

  7. Thorn says:

    The section on India interests me the most, since its geographic pickling traditions are those I know the least, but I have to admit the misozuke recipe you posted a few months back has been on my mind. Summertime’s mixed cravings for umami with those for light foods.

  8. Deb says:

    Such a wonderful idea and great gift! Thank you!

    I would start on page one and go page by page, until distracted by something towards the back of the book. ;>

  9. Becky says:

    I definitely am interested in the Thai pickles, as that’s probably my go-to Asian favorite, but after reading an article in last week’s NYT about the effect of China discovering frozen food on both their diet and the environment, I definitely want to learn more about their fermenting practices as well.

  10. Rebekah McKenzie says:

    Ooh, I don’t know whether I would try Indian or Vietnamese first. We love both of those cuisines in my house!

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