Traditional Chinese pickled white radish 'suan luo bo' 酸萝卜

Pickled white radish 甜酸萝卜 and the story of a once-beautiful little girl from Waterloo

I was at an industry lunch a few weeks ago where a welfare official gave a talk on children in care. After the government outsourced the administration services, the children return-to-home rate had increased to 60%. And the person said the best place for the children was with their parents.

On hearing that, I felt utterly unsettled.

I met Molly (not her real name) while I was working as a volunteer at Waterloo, a diverse suburb with many social housing. Molly might be in her 40s or 50s. Her face was somehow deformed, and she had no teeth. When she appeared at the charity late in the morning, she talked very loudly as if she was yelling. Her speech was not recognizable. The staff at the charity made her prescribed protein drinks. Molly sat at a table for hours on her own, talking to everyone and no one.

“She was a beautiful little girl once, beautiful!” said one of the local ladies who lived in the same social housing estate as Molly. “She was beaten by her father repeatedly and ended up in the hospital with brain damage.”

I grew up with my mother chasing me with a bamboo stick. Those days, beating children was perfectly acceptable in China. When I was beaten up, no one came to my rescue, not even my grandmother. I was lucky. I grew up to be a strong and independent individual. Molly didn’t have that chance.

In the evening, I made my favourite childhood snack for my family – sweet and sour pickled white radish. I used to buy them from the street vendors, 10 cents for three pieces, a special treat when my friends visited on very rare occasions.

Sweet and sour – I wish all children in the world are loved.

Ingredients

  • 250g Asian white radish (white daikon), sliced
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • a few pinches of salt
  • a little chili, sliced
  • warm water

Method

  • We will need a glass container with an air tight lid, large enough to hold the radish pieces
  • In the container, mix sugar, salt, vinegar with warm water; add radish pieces and chili; top up with some more water to cover all the pieces; once cooled, close the lid tightly.
  • Leave the container in the fridge for 2-3 days.  (if insufficient time, the radish will taste peppery, bitter and raw)
  • Serve slightly chilled
Pickled Asian white radish
Fresh white radish, pickled in vinegar and sugar
Traditional Chinese pickled white radish 'suan luo bo' 酸萝卜
Traditional Chinese pickled white radish ‘suan luo bo’ 酸萝卜

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