Homemade Dry Salted Vegetable 自製干腌菜
By Ellen L.Published: 2014-10-01
This tale of Homemade Dry Salted Vegetables, or 自製干腌菜, started one sunny Hong Kong afternoon when we decided to take my little girl to a park (which shall remain nameless for reasons you will soon understand) which was not our usual neighborhood park. A small trip for our small family. A fun, though still hot and muggy, day spent in a magnificent old park. A refreshing sojourn amongst the green trees for us weary city dwellers. As the twilight fell we were resting and eating ice cream on park benches when my 老公's sharp eye spotted something strange nearby. We sauntered over in the quickly fading light and discovered to our surprise, where once had been flower beds was now a bed of vegetables! How, you ask, did we know it was a vegetable bed? Well, dear readers, there were little melon/cucumber looking vegetables snuggled amongst the vines! Why on earth these vegetables were growing in a prime spot of a Hong Kong park I know not, but I will admit (Sh! Don't tell anyone!) that two of these melon/cucumbers were tucked into our pockets as we left the park that day!
You ask, rightly, what madness seized us that day? Well, what can I say, it was just so irresistible, the lure of real vegetables, the picking a of vegetable, fresh from the vine! A fleeting closeness to the simple concept of growing, cooking and eating your own food.
But then what? We had these beautiful freshly picked vegetables...and I had no idea what to do with them! The thing is, we had never seen this type of vegetable before. I started to research on the internet. Finally I found out that this vegetable is the Oriental Pickling Melon, or 白皮越瓜, which is often used for, you guessed it, pickling. After some thought, I decided that the easiest thing was to dry salt preserve/pickle the melon, which basically means that you sun and salt it. Mind you, this was the first time we had ever tried to do this so we were not sure at all if it was going to work. (In other words, we had no idea what we were doing!)
|Vegetable starts to dehydrate|
A kinda big problem for us with the sun and salt preserving/pickling vegetable method was that we don't have anything remotely close to a garden where we could lay out vegetables in the sun. (Most folks in Hong Kong don't have a garden. Sad but true. We all live in concrete towers.) So I just cleaned and cored the melon and stuck it corner of the kitchen near the window where the sun comes in the most. No salt at first, just the sun to dehydrate the vegetable.
This is our homemade dry salted vegetable after 5-6 days in its little spot by the window, sunning away with generous application of salt every day. Let me tell you two amazing things that I discovered:
First of all our dry salted melon smelled so good! It smelled of the sweet sun, slight roastyness and fresh cucumbers, my 老公 had to tell me to stop sniffing the veggies, it was a bit getting weird. The taste is that of the vegetable you're salting but intensified and concentrated, and, of course, quite salty. I think you can use as is if you use small portions but you can also soak the dry salted vegetable in cool water for a while to draw out some of the saltiness before cooking with it.
Second of all and most important, this homemade dry salted vegetable was sooooo easy to make and yet it turned out great! I literally just left the melons in that sunny spot, poked at it once a day, pouring out any extruded juices and adding a bit of salt. I still can't believe that it worked! (I thought for sure that one day I would look at it and there would be mold all over it or something like that.)
So now that we've got a small stash of homemade dry salted oriental pickling melon that I've tucked into a cool cupboard corner, we can bring it out anytime to stir fry with, or to flavor a soup, or just to mince up and enjoy sprinkled over a lovely bowl of homemade congee. I'm super excited how easy it was to make and we're looking forward to trying this dry salting method with other vegetables! And, if you have tried dry salting before, we would love to know your tips and tricks!
Homemade Dry Salted Vegetables Recipe 自製干腌菜
2 oriental pickling melons (or any melon/cucumber you would like to preserve)
2-4 tbsp salt (we used coarse salt)
Wash the vegetable and let dry. Slice open and remove seeds. Place flesh side up in a tray and let it sit in the sun for a full day until vegetable surface is quite dry and slightly wrinkled. Cover with netting to protect from flies if necessary. Pour out any extruded juices, salt generously all over and let dry in the sun for a day. Repeat the previous step for 5-6 days, turning the vegetable over from side to side, until the vegetable seems to have leached out all of its juices. The flesh should be shrunken but still pliable to the touch and fresh smelling. It should be very salty to the taste. Slice to desired size and store in a clean ceramic container that is kept in a dark cupboard.
Tip: These dry salted vegetables should last thru a long, cold winter if done right, but you should always check before using. If the color is off or it smells funny, you should probably toss it.
More Picklish Delights at The Hong Kong Cookery: