Ah Con had a morning ritual. He got up at dawn and headed over to one of the local coffee shops to meet his friends. He would share with his friends the world news that he heard from the BBC radio station the previous day. On one of my trips I woke up early just to spy my grandfather and his remaining two friends enjoying their usual morning routine. That was 2007 and that same year all three passed away. My grandfather was the first to go.
|--my grandfather (seated in center) with the same smile that I remember|
--with his 2 friends at a coffee shop (2007)
|I planted these passion fruit shoots from seeds|
in memory of my late Ah Con (grandfather).
|addendum: While in Vietnam I advocate for home gardening.|
One of my nephews (Dang) and I planted passion fruit shoots
in his grandparents' (my aunt and uncle's) back yard.
|cu kieu (or Chinese onions) |
with roots and leaves intact
(you may buy these but you will have a lot of work
and in the end you will have less onions for pickling)
|best to buy the cu kieu (or Chinese onions) cut to this size |
(you will have less work and you will yield more onions)
|peel the outer tough layers and trim off the tops and roots|
|cleaned Chinese onions on left of photo|
|rewash the Chinese onions multiple times|
|let these onions drain well|
|prepared and cleaned onions|
(ready for pickling)
|onions submerged in salty water|
2.3 kgs (about 5 lbs) củ kiệu (Chinese onions), removed and discarded the roots and green parts
1 gallon and 12 oz water
1/2 cups sea salt
6 cups home-made (or those made from Thailand) vinegar
1 1/3 cups sugar**
1) While soaking the củ kiệu (Chinese onion), take each one and remove any tough outer layers. Trim off any roots and green parts. Each white part of the onion will be about 1 1/2 to 2-inch length. Avoid over-trimming as this is possible (according to my aunt). If you cut off too much of the root then the onion will not be as crunchy later. Wash until the onion is completely clean and white.
2) Once cleaned, drain and spread the onions in a single layer in a pan or platter. Let them sun dry for 1/2 to 1 day or until the onions are dried and slightly wilted.
3) To make the salty water (this cannot be too salty per my aunt): Add 1 gallon and 12 ounces water in a large pot. Once the water starts to boil turn heat down slightly and add 1/2 cup sea salt. Stir occasionally and once the salt has dissolved, remove from heat and let the liquid cool completely.
4) In a clean large container pour in the cooled salted water and add the wilted onions. Use a plate to push down the onions so they are all submerged in the salty liquid. Put something heavy on top to keep the plate in the water. Keep the onions in salty water for 2-3 nights. You may do a taste test after 2 nights to see if they are ready for pickling by biting into one and tasting it. When the onion is ready then it should not taste raw or has a strong peppery taste. If they are not ready then leave for another night.
5) To make the final pickling solution (may make this 1 day ahead and let cool completely before using): Cook 6 cups of vinegar (preferably home-made or vinegar from Thailand) and 1 1/3 cups sugar in water. Once the water starts to boil turn heat down to low. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and remove from heat. Let cool completely.
6) Put the onions in sterilized jars and pour the cooled liquid over them. Keep the jars at room temperature until ready to eat. May try one in 1 week and if it tastes sweet, sour and not raw then it is ready. You may refrigerate these after 2 weeks.
*It is best and less time consuming to buy these Chinese onions with most of the roots and green parts cut off. This way you will have less work and you get more onions out of what you purchased.
*You may add whole chili peppers and sliced carrot for a nicer presentation. If you are using sliced carrots you will need to dry them in the sun for 1/2 day or until they are not moist anymore. My aunt at age 76 y.o. (she insists she is now 76 since end of the year everyone in my Chinese family gained 1 year no matter the birth date) still has the energy to stack the onions, peppers and carrots neatly in a jar (see photo below)--a very tiring and tedious process! Definitely you do this for your own enjoyment and not for selling!
*Try to save any glass jars you have for pickling. I prefer the smaller ones for easy access and for gifting. Unfortunately I don't have access to the best looking jars here. However, make sure the jars and lids are cleaned and sterilized in boiling water before using.
*After cleaning and drying the onions they will reduce in size. I bought 5 pounds of onions from the market and after cleaning and drying they came to about 3.2 pounds.
**After 4 days of pickling these tasted quite delicious and basically ready to eat. There is almost no spiciness when you bite into it. This recipe is not as sweet as what most of my relatives prefer. If you do not want it this tart then add 1 2/3 cups to 2 cups of sugar for this recipe. You can adjust the sugar little by little to the vinegar until it is according to your taste.
*With this recipe my aunts recommend adding a large pinch of sugar to about a handful of onions prior to eating. This way they will not be so tart.
*Click on this link to read more about củ kiệu or Allium chinense.
|my aunt helping me stack the onions,|
carrot flowers and chili peppers
neatly in a jar
|pickling onions in jars|
|my aunt proudly held up her beautiful looking jar|