Even before I open my eyes in the morning, when senses are at their dullest, the first thing I’ve been noticing lately is the pungency of ramps. I’m not sure whether it’s my breath, clothes, or skin pores, but I’m guessing that pouring a boiling red pepper broth over wild leeks is enough to trump Febreze freshness.
Did it sound like I was complaining? I’d pickle a truckload of ramps in this way if I could. The smell isn’t anything that Axe and Listerine can’t fix anyway.
The sweet, sour, and spicy pickling brine retains the crispness of the ramps from leaves to bulb. Most of the heat comes from shichimi togarashi, an aromatic Japanese seasoning comprised of seven ingredients. The particular blend I used, one of many variations, had orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, red peppers, sansho (better known as Sichuan peppercorns), ginger, and seaweed.
As fiery as the Korean crushed red pepper (gochugaru) looks, it’s actually rather sweet. It gives the pickling brine a menacing kimchi-red hue even if it barely adds any heat. Any of the milder ground red peppers, such as unsmoked Spanish paprika, will do in a pinch.
David Chang’s Pickled Ramps
with Japanese and Korean Seasonings
A 9 x 13-inch baking dish is not the best container to use. I had to double the pickling brine.
1 pound ramps, trimmed and cleaned
For the Pickling Brine:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Japanese seven spice (shichimi togarashi)
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Korean crushed red pepper (gochugaru)
What’s that smell?
- Place the trimmed and cleaned ramps in a large nonreactive container (such as stainless steel or glass).
- Combine all the pickling brine ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Immediately pour over the ramps.
- Let the ramps and pickling brine cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate at least overnight before serving.
Tsukemono or kimchi?