I had the opportunity to spend 3 years of my married life living in Seoul, Korea, my birthplace. I had Daughter #2 there, lived there, conceived Son there and all in all adjusted and enjoyed my time in Korea. It was a great experience and one that taught me a lot about food and life.
While in Korea, I was pregnant with two of my children - and the ONE thing I COULD NOT STAND....Korean food. I could not take the smell, the thought - everything about it just wanted to make me sick. We lived in a very Korean restaurant heavy neighborhood and all I did was think about moving out of there. I wanted anything not Korean, burgers, chili fries, burritos, tacos, ribs, corn on the cob, sandwiches - that was my craving. Husband took pity on me and escorted Daughter #1 and me to various restaurants, expensive and cheap to help me survive the pregnancy of hating Korean food.
I remember at the time, being both amused and bemused at the frequency of "pickles" at these non-Korean restaurants. A fine Italian restaurant? Have a bowl of pickles in the middle. Pizza joint - definitely need pickles at the table. Burger? Extra pickles with your fries please. I knew that for many Koreans, pickles were in essence, "replacing" their traditional kimchee, and the pickles helped these non-Korean, Western "greasier" dishes go down. Husband and Daughter always gobbled them up - I just looked at them, appalled that they needed pickles to eat anything. The food tasted really good - without pickles.
But essentially, pickles are good for the whole "balance" of a western meal. Many western dishes leave out acid, essential for helping to cut the richness of many foods and brightening the flavors. (There is nothing acidic on a pizza for example.) Pickles bring in the acid, brighten up the flavors, and balance the flavors of a meal. Clearly daughters and husband intuitively understand this notion, because if there is something non Korean on the table, they either ask for pickles or kimchee.
I've taken to making these VERY simple radish pickles - as they are so beautiful and wonderfully refreshing. They are somewhat Korean in their smell - only because they have a distinct order that comes from pickling radishes. They are a great addition to any table, and are so easy to make that you'll always want to have a supply on hand. They are a beautiful color (as Daughter says - Pink PICKLES mom) and are fun to eat.
The only thing slightly tricky about this is the scoring of the radishes - but if you can do that, the rest is a piece of cake.
Pink Radish Pickles
3 bunches of radishes, washed and trimmed.
1 cup of white vinegar
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Mix the vinegar, water, sugar and salt and stir until sugar is complete dissolved in a glass container where you will store the radishes. (I like this big glass bowl that comes with a plastic cover.)
Score the radishes, about 1/4 inch mini cuts. Do not cut the radish complete, just cut them 3/4 of the way down. (see photo below) Add to the vinegar mixture. Store for several days in the refrigerator until the red from the outside of the radishes has completely bled out and dyed everything a beautiful pink.
Beautiful, organic, washed radishes
Radishes placed in GLASS storage container with 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt.