Vietnamese pickled veggies


Like Western salad, Vietnamese people feel something missing if they have to go through their daily meal without pickled or salty vegetables. This kind of traditional dish is a perfect accompaniment to Asian meat dishes which counter-balance flavors thanks to its sour and crunchy tastes.

Vietnamese pickled veggies

I remember seeing very heavy ceramic cylindrical crock that my mom used to preserve salty eggplant and mustard cabbage so often when I was a child instead of smaller-sized glass or plastic bottle nowadays. In northern Vietnam, most women have been in the habit of making preserved cabbage every week. Ingredients and procedure to prepare a medium-flavored plate of pickled veggies (not too salty nor too mild) are passed from generation to generation. My mom did try to teach me how to make it but it took me so much time to properly follow. However, it cannot be denied that pickled vegetables is a special dish. It not only reminds of hard time of our parents but the dish itself has distinctive flavor owning to the fermentation process combined with crunchy texture that make them fun to eat.


Vietnamese pickled veggies



Vietnamese people enjoy the natural flavor of the dish, so we invented different versions of fermentation applied to certain kind of vegetables to make them sweet-smelling, crunchy, multi-flavored without having to cook the ingredients. During Tet holiday, meat dishes and fried sticky rice cake are available and greasy, simple crunchy pickled shallots are a perfect accompaniment that balances flavor, stimulates appetite and digestion. In the past, Vietnamese people enjoyed their daily meal with only boiled vegetables with its broth, combined with a bowl of salty eggplant or cabbage. Outstanding pickled veggies dish include: mustard cabbage pickles, daikon and carrot pickles, cabbage, shallot, parsley pickles, salty eggplants, figs, star-fruits etc.

Vietnamese pickled veggies

Starting from fresh mustard cabbages, the whole plants are dried in the sun for several hours or the whole day. The process is said to improve the texture of the pickles and make it last longer since we remove water from the leaves and replace it during pickling with saltier water later. Fresh mustard cabbages are then washed and preserved in a solution of salt and a bit of sugar. This is a crucial step. A little too much salt, the preserves will be inedible. Too little salt, the cabbage may get spoiled. The simple key to successful vegetable fermentation is to make sure your vegetables are submerged in liquid. Hence, we often see a small bowl or a heavy rock placing on top of the jar, pressing the veggies beneath. Waiting for a few days later, the green cabbage will “ripe”, turning into a pale green-gold color. The pickles are ready then, with the right amount of crunchies and sourness.


Vietnamese pickled veggies


Salty eggplant soaked or dipped in soybean is a favorite traditional dish of Vietnamese people, which usually go along with boiled water spinach. Like mustard cabbage, after removing stem and drying under the sun for two hours, keep the whole eggplant or cut it into two segments, wash thoroughly then soak in a sink of salty water. Grind garlic and prepare some chili. Dissolve 1 tbsp of sugar and 3 tbsp of salt in one liter of water. Add garlic, chili and eggplants. Use a small plate to press the eggplant, place a heavy object above and keep it for 1-2 days before eating. Salty eggplant helps stimulate enzyme in saliva and counter balance flavors in daily meal. The soybean sauce, also from soybean through fermentation process, is highly nutritious, sweet-smelling, easy to digest and helps detoxication for our bodies.


Vietnamese pickled veggies

Vietnamese pickled veggies

Another special pickled vegetable that only belongs to the northern region is pickled fig  which is an indispensable accompaniment to steamed snail dish. To start, a bowl of salty water should be prepared first, then cut figs into smaller slices (3mm) to make them easier to absorb seasonings. After being soaked for 5 minutes, remove water and add soup powder, sugar, chili, shake the mixture well and keep it for 30 minutes before serving with snail dish. The procedure can be similarly done for star-fruits and otaheite apple. Such dishes are not only multi-flavored but also crunchy, which makes them fun to eat. 

Vietnamese pickled veggies


The uniqueness and beauty of Vietnamese traditional dishes lie in its simple but sophisticated flavors, which makes it unforgettable for any taster.  Vietnamese pickled salad dishes are different among regions. If the northern region is loyal to traditional way of preserving pickled veggies, the southern people enjoy pickled fruits which mixes shred mango and chili powder or fresh chili, sugar and garlic. etc. What’s more, in many coastal regions, green papaya, shallot are shred and preserved in large jar combined with shrimp or crab sauce, creating regional extraordinary specialties that attract tourists from all over the world.


Vietnamese pickled veggies


Vietnam is blessed with a tropical climate associated with a very diverse cuisine. Any citizen far away from their home country for such a long time cannot help missing Vietnamese traditional dish partially reflected by their mother or grandma’s heavy jar of pickled vegetables with sour and crunchy flavors attached in every memory full of love and ecstasy of childhood!


Vietnamese pickled veggies

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