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Types of Pickles

There are many types of pickles but hat are exactly pickles? According to the dictionary, it refers to food which have been preserved in vinegar and or with salt water.

Salted fish being dried
Salted fish laid out to dry in the sun

Brine refers to very salty water especially used for pickling. However, in Indian cooking, making pickles or "achar" uses oil as preservatives and various spices as flavoring.

Pickling process is used to preserve fish and vegetables. Basic pickles ingredients are normally easy to buy.  In Malaysia and Thailand, salted king mackerel in soy oil is a favorite among the people. Dried prawns and squids are also common in South East Asia. In England, pickled herring and smoked mackerel are usually found at the fish markets.

Other than fish in brine, salted dried fish is easier to find everywhere in the region. It makes sense because this method of preserving fish is the cheapest and the easiest.

Fruits and Vegetables Pickles

There are two basic types of pickles. Raw or cooked. Young vegetables and fruits are more suitable to be made into raw pickles. If the vegetables or fruits are ripe, the abundant natural juice, usually acidic, reacts with the solution of salt, vinegar or sugar used to preserve them. The result can be disastrous because you will be left with very mushy fruits. However, ripe fruits are good to be made into jam.

Raw fruit pickles is very famous in Penang. Many kinds of local fruits can be pickled. However, nutmeg and mangoes head the list. Even then, there are at least six type of nutmeg preserves. Even shaved candied nutmeg skin tastes delicious!

Three types of pickled nutmeg

Quartered nutmegs, sliced nutmegs with skin and halved peeled nutmegs.
They all taste different!

Mangoes? There are dozens of types of mangoes and EACH of them can be processed and tastes very different from one another. Talk about species! Mango salad, Thai style. Need I say more? *drool*

As for cooked pickles, they are usually served with rice as a condiment. Laden with spices and full of flavor. They can be bottled and kept for several weeks in room temperature or in in the refrigerator. The cooked pickles can either require fresh or preserved fruits and vegetables in their recipes.

Since McDonald's and other western franchises have flooded the country, we are also seeing other types of pickles, especially in the burger. So, now Malaysian supermarket shelves also have gherkins, bread and butter pickles, relishes and capers.

I still remember when the IKEA store at One Utama Shopping Mall near Kuala Lumpur offered "eat-all-you-want" beautiful relish to go with their hotdogs. "Kiasu" Malaysians unashamedly scooped huge dollops of the good stuff on their hotdogs causing the management to stop the offer and instead, selling the relish in tiny containers on the side!

"Kiasu" is a Malaysian/Singaporean term to indicate appalling behaviour of wanting to be better than anyone else regardless the consequences or moral values.

If you love sushi, you must be familiar with "gari", pink pickled ginger that is served with this Japanese delicacy. A meal at Korean restaurant always has "kimchi", pickled cabbage in chili powder.

In Kelantan, the Malaysian state bordering with Thailand on the east coast, you will find pickled garlic as one of the condiments in nasi kerabu - delicious rice with heaps of fresh ulam, keropok (fish crackers) and also special spicy sauce with budu (fish sauce made of ikan bilis).

Pickled garlic mostly comes from Thailand. The last time I bought a two liter bottle pickled garlic, it only cost me RM10.00 (around US$2.70).

These imported types of pickles are great but still, nothing beats Malaysian pickles, chutney or achar. Imagine the fragrant smell, feel your mouth fills with saliva and taste the texture of crunchy vegetables. Beautiful.

I think I have whet your appetite well enough, it is time to share with you some easy to make, delicious recipes for a few types of pickles. Enjoy.

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Learn how to make lime pickles (achar buah or achar limau)

Learn how to preserve lemons

Learn how to cook Spicy Cucumber Pickle

Learn how to make the ever famous Penang Achar

Recipe for making green mango chutney

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