Recipe: Pickled Garlic Stems or Maneul Jjong Jangajji (마늘쫑 장아찌)

I love side dishes in Korean meals but they're really a nuisance to make sometimes. Not only do some of them take a lot of time, effort, and create a lot of dishes needing to be washed but some of them, such as roots and sprouts only goes for a week or so before going bad.

But the beauty of pickled and/or fermented Korean dishes are that they're meant to last a while. In the olden days, way before refrigeration, food was often difficult to come by for commoners, let alone have vegetables around that could last through the blazing hot summer seasons or icy winters. Making pickled dishes (called "jang ah jji" or 장아찌) with the vegetables in season provided not only food but important nutrients that were difficult to come by. Of course in today's day and age this sort of reasoning doesn't apply much anymore. However with today's side dish (or any of the jang ah jjis in general),  investing a little time and effort to make them will give you the benefit of having food that you can enjoy for weeks- sometimes months- which is awesome for busy folks like you and me.

Garlic is in almost all Korean dishes but its stems are also enjoyed in various side dishes too. Despite their innocent looks, these guys pack quite a garlicky punch so garlic lovers should enjoy today's side dish.

Pickled Garlic Stems (마늘쫑 장아찌)

You'll need:
- 1 bunch Garlic Stems (usually sold in Korean marts in a bunch)
- 2 cups Water
- 2 cups Soy Sauce
- 1.5 cups of Sugar
- 1.5 cups of Vinegar
- 2-3 small pieces of Dashima (dried Kelp)

1. Cut your garlic stems into 2-3 inch pieces and cut off any bad parts or ends. Wash the cut stems in cold water and let the water drain properly

2. Have an air tight container with a lid on hand and heat up some water to sterilize the insides of your container and lid. Then, throw in the garlic stems. Note: The container should be heat-proof and airtight so a glass container would work well here.

3. In a pot, bring the water, soy sauce, sugar, and dashima to a boil on high heat. When it begins to boil, lower to medium and let it boil for 3 minutes. Discard the dried kelp after three minutes and stir in the vinegar. Taste and adjust to your liking. It should be partly salty, sweet, and tart but the taste can be adjusted to your preference.

4. Pour in the soy sauce mixture, while its still hot, into your container of garlic stems. Use a clean stone, weight, or even foil or butcher paper to ensure all the garlic stem pieces are submerged. Let cool before closing the lid. Keep closed in room temperature for two days. However! You're not done as you must sterilize the soy sauce mixture once more!

5. After two days, carefully pour out the brining liquid only (not the garlic stems) back into a pot and bring to a boil and let it cook for a minute or two. Let it cool completely before pouring it back into your container with the garlic stems.

Keep the pickled garlic stems in your refrigerator for approximately a week or so before eating. Even after a week, if you still have some of the pickled garlic stems leftover but are worried about contamination or spoilage, just repeat the brine boiling and pouring and your pickled garlic stems should easily last you a long, long time.

To serve, simply scoop out (with a clean utensil) a couple of pickled garlic stems with the soy sauce mixture in a small dish.

A mixture of tart, sweet, and savory and with a nice garlic note... these are an excellent side to have- especially with fatty or rich dishes- on any table, Korean or non-Korean!