Updated: Mar 17
What the heck is it?
This interesting lil ferment could be what you’d say is the sauerkraut of Thailand. Pak Dong is a leafy greens-based naturally fermented goody which is commonly made using the salting method. Like kimchi (check out our food-waste inspired kimchi HERE) Pak Dong is often made with the addition of a bit of starch, from water used to cook rice. But we’ve found that you can make a ferment just as yummy without it.
Many recipes (probably a lot more traditional than ours!) call for mustard greens to give a horseradish-y/fire-y hit to this ferment. But since these aren’t the easiest to get your hands on in Aberdeen we’ve opted for a mix of white cabbage and pak choi and a hefty dose of mustard seeds instead (toasted for maximum punch).
If you have a try of this recipe let us know!! We love to see pics of people getting down and dirty with their ferments.
With cultured veggies it’s important to remember the 4 rules to success: Shred, Salt, Pound, Pack!
Recipe - makes roughly 1.5 litres
White cabbage x 1 (or other firm-stemmed leafy greens x 1kg)
Pak choi x 2
Carrots x 5 (medium)
Thai green chillies x 6
Mustard seeds x 20g
Sesame seeds (we used black) x 30g
Garlic cloves x 8
Salt (we used sea salt) x 40g
Large mixing bowl
Wide-mouth glass jars (to fit roughly 1.5L – several is fine!)
1. Toast the mustard and sesame seeds in a dry frying pan on a medium heat until you can hear them gently popping. Take off heat and leave to cool.
2. Remove a couple of outer leaves from the cabbage, wash and leave to one side.
3. SHRED: finely shred the cabbage by cutting in half, carefully cutting out the core and chopping into fine strips. You can do a chunkier ferment but you’ll have to sweat for longer (see step 5) to extract enough water from the veg.
4. Chop the pak choi width-ways into medium-sized shreds and add to the cabbage.
5. SALT: sprinkle the salt over all the cabbage and use your hands to ensure every last leaf is covered in salty goodness. This helps extract the water from the leaves – we like to call it making your cabbage sweat.
6. Grate the carrot and finely chop the garlic and chillies. Mix thoroughly into the cabbage along with the seeds.
7. POUND: use them muscles to massage and squeeze the veggies until when you grab a handful water runs out of your fists (nb: this might take a wee while but it’s a great workout!).
8. PACK: place a handful of veggies into your clean jars at a time and push down so that they’re in there tight – this makes sure there’s no air bubbles as they need an oxygen free (anaerobic) environment to thrive. When you’re about 2 inches from the top stop and move onto the next jar. When all of them are full pour any excess liquid in to cover the veg. Tear off a portion of the outer cabbage leaves you left to one side and push down on top of your ferment to act as an inner seal.
9. Cap your jars and leave on your counter top out of direct sunlight. After a couple of days you should notice the veg expanding (hence leaving some space at the top!) and even bubbling!
10. Some folks like to leave their veg for a couple of days, some for longer (we like around 3 weeks). Either is fine, as long as when you taste it and like it you pop it in the fridge to slow fermentation right down.
NB: In the fridge your ferment should technically last for weeks (but hopefully you’ll have eaten it by then!)