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Most everyday Vietnamese-style pickles are made using ordinary salt, but on special occasions—such as the Lunar New Year—intensely savory nuoc mam is used in the brine instead. This not only gives the crispy, lactofermented fish sauce-pickled radishes their particular depth of flavor; it also helps cut through the richness of the many opulent and auspicious foods, such as banh chung (savory, pork-filled sticky rice cakes) traditionally served on such festive occasions. This quick and simple recipe is adapted from Cuong Pham’s Red Boat Fish Sauce Cookbook: Beloved Recipes from the Family Behind the Purest Fish Sauce. For more classic recipes to welcome the Year of the Tiger, look to our collection of the best Lunar New Year recipes.

Yield: makes About 1 quart
Time: 24 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 cups turbinado sugar
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • ¾ cups nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)
  • 2 bird’s-eye chiles, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. daikon, scrubbed, stemmed, and sliced crosswise into ¼-in. coins
  • 2 cilantro roots or 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 small white onion, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. To a medium pot, add the sugar, vinegar, fish sauce, and ¼ cup of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then remove from the heat. Add the chiles (if using) and garlic, and set aside.
  2. If using cilantro roots, smash with the flat side of your knife to release their flavor. (If using coriander seeds, use them whole.) Pack the radishes, onion, and cilantro roots (or coriander seeds) into heatproof jars, then pour enough of the warm brine to completely submerge. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate and store for up to 1 month.

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