pickled vegetable with corn and chili

Pickled Vegetable with Corn and Chili

It’s obvious from yesterday’s post that I love bold flavors and the mixing of them in dishes.  And, in my opinion, South East Asian dishes are great at mixing tastes and creating a mind blowing experience in your mouth – but, East Asians aren’t too bad at it either.  I find that their dishes are subtler in flavor.  When you take a bite of some dishes, you know something is up, you’re not sure what it is, but it’s a flavor combination that you can’t figure out.   It’s hard to describe.  This is one of those dishes that I find exemplifies what I’m trying to describe.

The star of the dish is Zha Cai, or also known as Chinese Pickled Vegetables.  It originates from Szechwan cuisine, so you know it is spicy, sour, salty, and delicious all in one.  It’s a pickled stem of a mustard tree and commonly used in soups and such.  This is the way that my Mom used to always prepare it for us.  Make sure you rinse the vegetables so that you can make sure some of the salt is taken off.  The point is to balance your dishes to make sure everything tastes good together, not to have one dish over power the rest.  There’s actually a yin yang balance that every Chinese chef tries to cook with.  It’s called Chinese food therapy.  I just like how it tastes.

Depending on my mood, or who I am cooking for, I shift from using ground pork or dried tofu.  Again, the pork is for flavoring so you don’t need too much.  But if you want a good substitute, you can use Chinese dried tofu.  It’s not dried tofu, like tofu jerky – but more like regular tofu but with very little moisture.  It has a great firm texture and tastes great in these types of dishes.  Some of them are prepared with extra spices and flavors.  I would recommend using one of these varieties, because then you are adding extra flavor that you will lack without the ground pork.

Frozen corn is just fine in this dish.  Like canned tomatoes, corn is usually picked at its ripest and frozen when it has the most flavor, so you aren’t losing any flavor.  I actually prefer it to fresh corn unless it’s local.  Mainly because raw unripe corn just isn’t that good, which is what it needs to be to survive a long delivery.

This is probably one of my favorite dishes that I learned from my Mom.  It has all the great flavors and all the yins work well with the yangs.


½ dried tofu, ¼ inch dice or ¼ lb ground pork

1 10 oz box of frozen corn

½ cup Zha Cai/Chinese Pickled Vegetable, sliced and rinsed

¼ cup scallion, minced

2 small Thai chili or 1 medium jalapeno, minced

1 tbs soy sauce

1 tbs Chinese rice wine

1 tbs canola/vegetable oil

salt to taste


sauté chili, pickle vegetable, scallion, and tofu or pork,  until pork is cooked or scallion begins to slightly brown on high in wok or large pan

add corn and toss until fully thawed

pour soy sauce and rice wine into wok or pan and toss till evenly coated

season to taste with more salt

-serves 4 as side dish-


2 Responses to “pickled vegetable with corn and chili”

  1. 1 juyeon
    February 10, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Oh, how can this be? I just saw that there were no comments on this one. I have to say something about this one.

    Hey, people out there, this dish, while it’s so simple to make and takes so little time, is one good side-dish (for Korean standard) for children. Yes, perhaps less chili is preferrable, but, it has the taste of my childhood memories.

    I just want to comment on pickled vegetables. All different cultures and countries have different pickled vegetables – and they are all (salty or sweet or sour or sometimes both) brilliantly nutritious. People before the invention of fridge were very smart! Eating is directly related to surviving and enjoying the life and our ancestors knew how to.

    I love life! I love food! I love this dish! Yeay~!

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