Maybe it’s because I grew up with this one, but truly, these lightly pickled bean sprouts would rank at the top of all three workhorse lists: easy, fast, versatile. They are the fresh-tasting foil to a classic Vietnamese dish, thit kho, that involves long, tender cooking of fatty pork, burnt sugar, and hard boiled eggs. Delicate in flavor, with just a hint of tartness, the pickle’s refreshing crispness works well with grilled meats, rich stews and the sweet, roasted pork of Chinese delis.
This recipe requires mere minutes to throw together and is super simple to scale up. You can make the pickle with the mild sprouts of mung beans or the wonderfully nutty sprouts of soy beans. Both are at their best when eaten within a few hours of making, but they keep well enough, refrigerated, for a few days of snacking.
Bean Sprouts with Scallions
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Kosher or sea salt
8 ounces fresh bean sprouts
2 scallions, halved lengthwise then cut into 2-inch lengths
1-2 tablespoons of rice vinegar (optional)
Heat a large saucepan of water until very hot. There should be no bubbles rising, and the hardy might even be able to dip their hand in. If you have a thermometer, this would be in the range of 120-130 degrees F. Remove the pan from the heat.
Stir enough salt into the water that you can taste your favorite ocean, maybe 1 tablespoon, maybe 2, depending on the bigness of your pan. Don’t worry about exactitude: the allure of homemade pickles is their varying nature. And all is fixable.
Dump in the bean sprouts and the scallions and give them a quick stir. Leave the pickle to rest and cool for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. The bean sprouts will soften and become slightly translucent; the scallions will wilt and sweeten. The longer you leave it, the tarter it will become — just like that!
Drain the pickles before serving and, if you need more sourness at your table, drizzle with a tiny amount of rice vinegar.
Variations are many: Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, chile flakes, or sesame oil. Stir in your favorite herb, such as shiso or cilantro. Sweeten with mirin. Spike with sherry.