I first discovered pickled chillies at my local Chinese restaurant here in Zurich. Yes, Zurich. Despite having grown up in Australia where south-east Asian food abounds, and despite my countless trips to Asia since I was a wee tot, I only came across this delightful condiment during what would be the first of many stir-fries that I like to indulge in frequently at my local because I’m rather terrible at making stir-fries at home.
My local Chinese restaurant serves their pickled chillies in little glass jars which you can help yourself to, alongside jars of spicy sambal oelek and bottles of Sriracha sauce – a level of chilli heat for everyone. I’m not usually one to eat fresh chillies as I am a bit of a scaredy cat and find the heat too much in even a nibble. But pickled chillies are really lovely because some of the heat is lost during the pickling process, and they actually become milder the longer you leave them in the pickling liquid. And when added to Asian soups and stir-fries upon serving, they transport a great little kick by way of a wonderful hot, sweet and sour note with every morsel. You will quickly discover that pickled chillies are just simply addictive!
I frequently pickle carrots, radishes and cucumbers for my Vietnamese dishes at home, but the pickling liquid I use there requires gentle simmering and then cooling before it can be poured into jars of waiting vegetables.
The recipe I have used here for these pickled chillies comes from Rachel Khoo, and it is a quick and simple recipe because no cooking or cooling is required. Perfect if you need to make some pickled chillies quickly (you should give them at least an hour of pickling) and if you want to avoid over-powering your kitchen with the smell of cooking vinegar!
Pickling chillies is also a great way of using up chillies which are likely to pass their best-by date, i.e. pickle them when they are still fresh and firm, not when they have become wrinkly and are starting to discolour. Where I live, chillies are sold in rather large packets and I often end up freezing most of the packet to prevent any wastage. But pickling them is a great alternative to freezing, plus they look so pretty in their glass jars 🙂
You can watch Rachel Khoo make this recipe on her delightful YouTube channel below:
- 150g green and red chillies
- 150ml warm water
- 100ml rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 2½ tablespoons icing sugar
- Thinly slice the chillies. If you don't want your pickled chillies to be too spicy, you can rinse them in a colander with warm water to remove some of the seeds.
- Place the chillies into a small sterilised jar.
- Mix the remaining ingredients in a small jug and pour into the jar over the chillies.
- Cover the jar and keep in the fridge.
- The pickled chillies keep well in the fridge for a few weeks but will lose a bit of their heat over time. I imagine that they would keep for longer in the fridge but I tend to make these in small quantities which we use within a few weeks.
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