The Sichuanese know the secret to having a constant source of super healthy, super tasty, probiotic pickles right at their fingertips: the home pickling jar! While perhaps not as widespread as in the past, plenty of households—and traditional restaurants—use lacto-fermentation to pickle a wide assortment of vegetables for both snacking and cooking. The family pickle jar holds an ever-changing assortment—cabbage, cauliflower, long beans, chilies, carrots, daikon and on and on—vegetables going in, pickles coming out, in an ongoing cycle of fermentation. A skilled pickler can keep a brine going for years!

Our deep dive into making Sichuan pickles walks you through starting your first batch of pickles, or paocai; maintaining a brine for months or years; troubleshooting the inevitable fails (pickling is both a science and an art!); and cooking with pickles as an ingredient. We even have a guide to pickling eggs to make deservedly trendy salted duck-egg yolks.

Sichuan Lacto-Fermented Pickles (Paocai, 泡菜): Starting Your First Batch

Part 1: Making Pickles the Sichuan Way This is part one of our guide to making pickles the Sichuan way, and it focuses on starting your first batch. Part two follows up with tips for maintaining a brine long term and troubleshooting common issues in lacto-fermentation.  Have you ever tried making pickles without vinegar? There’s a bit of a learning…

Sichuan Lacto-Fermented Pickles (Paocai, 泡菜) Part 2: Maintaining a Brine Long Term

How to Maintain a Natural Sichuan Ferment for Months or Years This is part two of our ultimate guide to making pickles the Sichuan way. If you are new to making Sichuan paocai or to lacto-fermentation in general, please read part one, “Starting Your First Batch,” first. There you will find the recipe for making a Sichuan pickle brine.  Have…

Homemade vs. Artisan Made

Chinese cooks, and particularly those in Sichuan, make frequent use of fermented, pickled and otherwise preserved vegetables. The home pickle jar contains a wide range of vegetables that are soured with nothing but a salt brine and time. Some of these—such as pickled chilies, long beans and mustard greens (suancai)—can also be bought readymade. Other frequently used preserved vegetables include Sichuan’s yacai and Chongqing’s zhacai, both of which are made from local varieties of mustard greens. These undergo a much more elaborate process of salting, drying, spicing and fermenting in several stages, a process that is best left to the pros.

All Deep Dive: Making Chinese Fermented Foods