Asian-Style Kirby Pickles
I don't know about you, but I like to nibble on sweet, salty, and tangy vegetable pickles with my meals. They help digest food and provide balance during the meal, especially when you are eating starchy foods like noodles. They also whet the appetite, which is probably why they are served the minute you sit down in many Asian restaurants. I call for kirby, Persian, or Japanese cucumbers, all of which are slender when compared to regular cucumbers. Kirby and Persian pickles are 4 to 5 inches long, while Japanese cucumbers are a couple of inches longer. The pickling liquid here is traditionally used for pickling sliced cucumber, carrots, and daikon, so feel free to try these vegetables as well. The amount of pickling liquid may look inadequate, but there will be enough because the cucumbers give up some of their natural water while sitting in the brine.
12 kirby, Persian, or Japanese cucumbers, quartered lengthwise (see Note)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup rice vinegar
1 to 2 red Thai chilies, stemmed, seeded, and halved or coarsely chopped (optional)
In a large bowl, toss the cucumbers with the salt. Let stand for 1 hour. Drain, wipe, and transfer them to a large resealable plastic bag.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and rice vinegar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into the large plastic bag containing the cucumbers, and add the chiles (if using). Seal the bag, squeezing any air out. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours. The longer the vegetables macerate, the more pickled they will taste.
Note: If you like a milder flavor, pickle these small cucumbers whole.