Is it just me, or has the quality of pickled green chillies gone down drastically? Maybe PJ stalls still make their own pickled green chillies with the care and attention they deserve, but here in KL, I can tell you it’s a rare day that you find anything but watery, underpickled, boring rubbish. Now for those of you not familiar with the delights of pickled green chillies, here is a little explanatory chapter. The rest of you, just skip the next paragraph.
In Malaysia, like in most of the region, we eat pickled green chillies with our breakfast noodles (yes, breakfast). The type of chilli or chilli sauce served varies with every dish. I’m not sure whether this is tradition or habit, but it seems to work out. So every plate of wonton noodles will be served with a side of sliced, pickled green chillies. These are not at all spicy, but very fragrant and nicely sour and most people will pour a little soy sauce over them. So you get that salty sour hit with your morning carbs. And IF the chillies are pickled correctly in house, the chillies can be so delicious, you want to eat them on their own, like a snack.
If you are wondering what on earth you’re going to do with just pickled chillies, fret not. In the next few weeks I will show you how to make wonton noodles from scratch and I’ll show you how to turn them into a delicious wonton noodle soup, complete with prawn filled wonton. Not only that, I will also share my secret Magic Noodle Sauce with you, which will allow you to make dry noodles as good as any you will find in a coffeeshop.
Pickled Green Chillies
- 600ml sealable, reasonably heat proof jar (or similar)
- 450g fresh green chillies
- 150ml white vinegar
- 50ml cider vinegar
- 100ml water
- 100g caster sugar
- 50g cassonnade or soft brown sugar
- 1 tsp/2g fine sea salt
Wash and drain the green chillies and cut them on the bias into slices of about 7-8mm. remove the pitch and seeds from the inside of the chillies and shake the cleaned chillies in a colander to remove whatever seeds are still there. If you want your chillies to be less spicy, soak them in cold water for an hour or so, then drain again. But honestly, this is really not necessary. The brine will soften whatever heat there may be left in the chillies after we have removed the seeds.
Pour the vinegars and water into a saucepan, add the sugars and salt and heat. A note of warning here; do not boil the brine, or you may lose a considerable amount of acidity and frankly, a lot of freshness. Oh, and don’t make the mistake of putting your nose over the pan to smell the brine. Although it’s quite an interesting experience.
While the brine is heating, pack the chillies tightly into a sealable heat proof jar. You will need to really squeeze the chillies to get them all in. Don’t worry about squashing them, they’re quite resilient. Once the brine is starting to simmer, pour it slowly into the jar, shaking things up between pouring to get rid of the bubbles. Pour the brine right to the top of the jar, then seal it while still hot. Keep in your cupboard for 7 days before opening and make sure to keep the jar in the chiller once you’ve opened it.
Traditionally people in Asia use simple rice vinegar and rock sugar to make most pickles, but I’m using Heinz white and cider vinegar, as well as cassonnade and caster sugar, simply because I think it makes for a slightly more refined pickle. But if you want to stick with tradition, you can substitute rice vinegar for both vinegars and rock sugar for the sugars and the proportions will still work perfectly.
Some recipes ask you to soak the sliced chillies in hot water, but I honestly don’t recommend that, as it takes the crunch out of the chillies. We are already heating and sterilising them in the hot brine, so the boiling water step is superfluous.