This mixture of vinegar and sugar balanced with a bit of salt is used to pickle both spicy and bland foods, helping to bring them into focus and harmony with accompanying dishes. It provides zip to mild lotus root, tames the fire of fresh ginger, and transforms sharp daikon into a pleasantly tangy side dish.
Makes 1/2 cup
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 piece kombu, 1 inch square
Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt and kombu in a small saucepan and let the kombu soak for at least 20 minutes or overnight; the soaking ensures that the natural glutamates of the kelp will mellow the sharpness of the vinegar and enhance the sweetness of the foods that will be pickled in the sauce.
Place the pan over low heat and stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt, slowly bring to just below a boil. Cook until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved, then remove from the heat and let the sauce cool in the pan before transferring it, including the kombu if you have used it, to a glass jar.
When the sauce is completely cool, cover the top of the jar with plastic wrap and then a tight-fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to two months.