Mar 22, 2023Liked by Mari, the Happy Wanderer

...are you saying Europeans don't have dill pickles? All of a sudden I feel superior about American cuisine! After sun-warmed tomatoes straight off the vine, dill pickles might be the best part of summer.

I'll have to try using apple cores in stock. It doesn't make it too sweet?

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What a fun idea for a post! This has happened a few times where I had to learn to make something my own damn self. One that stands out is: there was a Chinese restaurant in our city that made something called “pork and pickled vegetable.” They abruptly went out of business and no one else seemed to make this dish.

The “pickled vegetable” was something of a mystery ingredient and when I was combing the internet for a recipe I discovered this wasn’t a very common dish at all -- so “pickled vegetable” was a little hard to identify.

Finally I discovered the thing I was looking for was called “Zha Cai” aka “Szechuan Preserved Vegetable” -- if you have a well stocked Asian grocery you can find it or you can even get it from Amazon.

Here’s a link so you can see what it looks like in a can:


It’s not that expensive if you find it in an Asian grocery, but if I had to buy it from Amazon and pay $11 for a can, I’d still say it’s worth every penny.

Also I learned that a dish made with Zha Cai and pork was usually in soup form, not in the stir-fry form I’d grown to love at the restaurant. But eventually I found a recipe that was similar and I learned to make it my own damn self and it’s really pretty good:

1 lb pork loin or country ribs

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp white pepper

1 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp corn starch

12-oz can Zha Cai

3 cloves minced garlic

1 Tbsp shredded or minced ginger

1 1/2 Tbsp Shaohsing wine

1 tsp (additional) soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

3/4 c water

3 green onions cut in thin strips

3 red chilies seeded & cut in thin strips

1. Cut the pork into very thin stir-fry pieces (kind of like “julienne” if it were a vegetable) and place in a medium bowl. We have an Asian grocery that sells pork cut this way so that is a nice time-saver. Toss the pork with the 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 1/2 tsp. white pepper, 1 tsp. sesame oil & 2 tsp. cornstarch. Cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. 

2. Drain and julienne the Zha Cai if needed. I think the one from Amazon linked above is already “shredded” and therefore the right size. Very briefly rinse it & set aside. You can skip the rinsing if you like extra-intense pickled vegetable flavor.

3. Heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil over medium high heat in a wok. Add garlic and stir about 20-30 seconds. Add marinated pork & cook for several minutes or until cooked through. I tend to overcook all meats because I’m weird about meat. Add ginger shreds & the wine & toss well.

4. Add the Zha Cai, the 1 tsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. sugar, and 3/4 water. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until liquid is slightly reduced/thickened. Add green onions & red chilies, stir briefly (don’t cook the heck out of these) and turn off heat. 

5. Serve with steamed rice.

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Mar 22, 2023Liked by Mari, the Happy Wanderer

I love “don’t be a hero” as an exhortation to less effort in the kitchen!

We also make our own veggie stock - a big deal for me was learning the Scrap Vat could live in the freezer, so I can make it on a more as-needed basis.

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Mar 22, 2023Liked by Mari, the Happy Wanderer

"For a tasty, crunchy, and healthy variation of these pickles, you can make them with red cabbage instead of cucumbers"

Are you saying cucumbers aren't healthy?!? Whaaaa?

I HATE vinegar. Anything with even the slightest touch of vinegar my tastebuds reject. As a result I cannot eat Ketchup, Mayo, 99% of all salad dressings, anything with a "Balsamic Glaze", etc.

My aversion is so intense I just skip every single condiment in the world - even ones without vinegar (Ranch?) because for my 40+ years on the planet it was easier to just order that way rather than risk tasking a trace amount of vinegar.

Theorized it's because I'm a so-called "super taster" - have that genetic glitch where cilantro tastes like Ajax, and I've lost many Keurigs from being unwilling to descale because of the vinegar solution.

But I LOOOVE Dill Pickles

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Mar 24, 2023Liked by Mari, the Happy Wanderer

I'm so glad I'm not the only one! This makes me insane -- as far as I had understood, pickles as I know and love them were essentially an eastern European Jewish immigrant import. But apparently they were either altered once they hit NYC or they go sweet once you stray outside Ukraine/Poland or something. Very thankful both for my mom's delicious recipe (which, ahem, includes a nice fat clove or two of garlic because obviously that is what god intended) for pickles (which I grew up eating handfuls of) and for the fact that I can occasionally find cornichons here that taste like a real pickle should. I have also happy discovered that though Italians are terrible at pickles, they're quite good at pickled onions so I've added those to my snacking list, too.

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Mar 24, 2023Liked by Mari, the Happy Wanderer

I love the stock guidance and the paneer recipe. For me it means I might be able to make Indian food the way I like it - more mild than most afficiandos would accept. No recipes to add - I haven't done creative cooking in a while....maybe you'll inspire me!

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Pickles? How strange.

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Mar 22, 2023Liked by Mari, the Happy Wanderer

Now I'm hungry!

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