By Luc Gougeoun
I am addicted to pickled rakkyo. Half small onion and half garlic tsukemono, rakkyo is a crunchy delight that you can prepare easily at home. The end of May is the official rakkyo pickling season, so let’s get pickling!
Rakkyo is the Japanese name of Allium chinense, or garlic chive. It’s widely available in Japan at the end of May, and you can find huge bags of it right next to the green plums sold for umeshu-making. You can get the pickling jar and the pickling vinegar in the same display.
The taste of rakkyo is reminiscent of the small pickled onion available in Canada, and there’s a good reason for that — they are basically pickled in the same way. The most common rakkyo pickling technique in Japan is called amazuke, which means vinegar and sugar. Amazuke rakkyo is traditionally served with curry and rice, but you can eat them with almost any meal.
So how do you prepare it? It’s simple!
First get a bag of rakkyo and wash them. Cut the tips off and trim the bottoms. Put all the rakkyo in the pickling jar.
The basic recipe for the pickling liquid is a mix of vinegar, sugar, salt and mirin. To make things a lot simpler, bottles of pre-mixed pickling liquid are available at the supermarket and should work just fine. Just look for the word rakkyo on them (らっきょう).
You will still have to do a little bit of work to get the pickling liquid ready. For 1 kilogram of rakkyo, you will need to dissolve 250 grams of sugar in 150 ml of water. Do this in a small pot on your stove and let it cool down before mixing it with the pickling vinegar.
To give the whole pickling mixture a little kick, throw in a couple of dried hot peppers, also found next to the fresh rakkyo at the supermarket.
Cover the rakkyo with the pickling liquid and voilà!
The rakkyo should be ready to eat in about three weeks. Don’t forget to keep the jar in the refrigerator after you start eating it. Enjoy!