Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Vietnamese Pickled Carrots (Đồ Chua) - Naturally Fermented

Growing up in my mum's house there were always jars of pickled carrot, daikon radish, cauliflower, lemons and cumquats sitting around. My mum used sugar, salt and allowed them to sit and create their own brine. I absolutely loved the sweet and sour crunch the vegetables added to all our dishes. We made iced fermented lemon and cumquat drinks during the summer which were sweet, salty and sour all at the same time. Normally I am sugar free, but since I have raw organic sugar for my kefir and kombucha, I thought it would be fun to add to my fermented vegetables to try and re-create my mum's pickles. I was really pleased to get my mum's approval for this recipe! (it is a lot less sweeter than her original version and the longer you leave it, the less sugar there is).
Vietnamese Pickled Carrots (Đo Chua) - Naturally Fermented
Vietnamese Pickled Carrots (Đồ Chua) - Naturally Fermented
Fermented vegetables are also known as lacto-fermented vegetables. Lacto refers to the family of good bacteria mainly lactobacillus (not related to dairy, although they were first studied in dairy ferments hence the name). This family of bacteria converts sugars to lactic acid which inhibits the growth of bad bacteria. In addition it also increases and preserves the vitamin content of the vegetables as well as enabling easier digestion of the vegetables opposed to eating them raw.

Most commercial methods to make Vietnamese Pickles use vinegar to give the sour taste, my mum also started pickling her veggies this way too as it is quicker but you do not get the probiotic benefits using vinegar. The fermentation process will naturally give you the sour taste so it's worth sticking to this traditional method to get the most nutritional value and benefit.

I normally use a culture starter to make sure each batch starts off with all the right bacteria as I was using this food to help my son clear a c.diff infection. Using a culture starter like Body Ecology Vegetable Culture Starter gives consistent results each time. For this ferment I use a little sugar, I'm not too worried about the sugar content as the longer you leave it the less sugar there will be as the microbes use the sugar for food. You can add a table spoon of starter culture if you wish. 

Here are some tips for successful vegetable fermentation and how to get your children to eat fermented vegetables:

Use a flip top jar with rubber seal:
Also known as a Fido jar, you can find them cheap at Ikea. The rubber seal allows the gases to escape without the need to 'burp' the jars and also keeps the jar airtight to avoid mould developing. I have never had a mould problem using this jar (except when the lid had a chip in it and I didn't realise air was able to get in)

Allow a 2 inch gap from the top of the jar:
Don't overfill your jar, as the vegetables will release their own juices and some carbonation happens with the fermentation the jars may leak and you don't want to lose all the precious fermented liquids which you can use in salad dressings or dips.

Use cabbage leaves to weigh down your vegetables:
Using 2 outer cabbage leaves rolled up to push your vegetables under the brine (any vegetables not entirely submerged will start to rot - turning a brown/grey colour). Cabbage also have a lot of good bacteria naturally present which helps with the fermentation. It is ok for parts of the cabbage leaves to sit above the brine.

How to tell you ferment is going well:
A few easy signs to tell your ferment is going well is looking at the colour of the vegetables, lacto-fermentation is a traditional method used my many cultures to preserve vegetables. The colour of your vegetables should be bright and vibrant. You will see bubbles appear and may hear some hissing and spluttering of liquids and gasses escaping. All good signs that the fermentation process is going well.

You can leave your fermented vegetables on the counter for at least 6 months, I have had mine sitting on the counter for a year and they were still crunchy and tasty. There is absolutely no need to refrigerate after the fermentation period of 7 to 30 days. Lacto-fermentation is a method of preservation, so refrigeration is not needed until you open the jar. Refrigeration also slows down the fermentation process which you don't really want when you are fermenting foods.

I have been making fermented vegetables for four years now, using fermented vegetables to clear my then 3 year old son's recurrent clostridium difficile infection. The infection went on for 1 year with numerous rounds of flagyl. Once fermented foods were introduced, we noticed a difference after 2 weeks. After 2 months his test came back negative and he is now 8, thriving and eating fermented vegetables 3 times a day. This post tells you how I first introduced him to fermented foods and got him eating it. 

Vietnamese Pickled Carrots (Đo Chua) - Naturally Fermented

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Fermentation Time: At least 7 days, more to reduce the sugar content, 14 days is better and 21 days is great
Size: 1.5 litre glass jar (1.5 quart)
Store: on the counter, refrigerate only once opened.

I have two vegetable options in this recipe, both were staples in our house growing up. The carrot and daikon sticks are great as a side, in salads or snack on it's own. The shredded carrots work well as a topping on lettuce wraps, tacos, salads or in dips. 

You will need:
  • 1 x 1.5 litre (1.5 quart) flip top lid glass jar
  • 350 gms (12 oz) each of carrot and daikon or 1kg carrots for shredded carrots
  • 1.5 tbsp (22 gms / 0.77 oz) good quality sea salt (buy on iherb or amazon)
  • Optional tbsp starter culture  (reduce the salt to 1 tbsp) (buy here or here in AU use discount code 'loveurbelly')
  • 2 tbsp (30 gms / 1 oz) raw organic sugar (buy on iherb or amazon) (after 2 weeks of fermentation, most if not all the sugar has been consumed by the bacteria and the carrots are not sweet at all)
  • filtered water 
  • 2 large outer cabbage leaves
  • Wash your glass jar with hot water and distilled (white) vinegar (do not use soap or your kitchen sponge)
  • Set aside to air dry while you prepare your vegetables
  • Peel and chop your vegetables or using a julienne peeler shred the carrots (do not use a food processor or box grater, you will not get the right texture for Vietnamese pickles, a mandolin would work)
Vietnamese Pickled Carrots (Đo Chua) - Naturally Fermented
If making the carrot & daikon, slice the carrot and daikon radish into small sticks
Vietnamese Pickled Carrots (Đo Chua) - Naturally Fermented
If making the shredded carrots use a mandolin or julienne peeler (not grater or food processor as the texture is important for this ferment)
  • Place the vegetables in a large mixing bowl and add the salt and sugar
  • Massage for approximately 10 minutes to dissolve the salt and sugar and bring out some of the liquids from the vegetables
  • If time allows, set aside for an hour to allow more liquids to accumulate
  • Add vegetables to the jar including any juices and push down as much as you can, ensure there is at least a 2 inch gap from the top to avoid leakage and spillage
  • Add in enough filtered water to just cover the vegetables once pushed down and compacted
Vietnamese Pickled Carrots (Đo Chua) - Naturally Fermented

  • Roll up the 2 outer cabbage leaves and push the vegetables down, this should bring the water level up to the top, more liquid will be produced from the vegetables over the next few days
Vietnamese Pickled Carrots (Đo Chua) - Naturally Fermented

  • Leave for at least 7 days (I usually do 14 days)

Vietnamese Pickled Carrots (Đo Chua) - Naturally Fermented

If you like this recipe, please leave me a comment, like or share this post, it really helps me out :)

Hope you enjoy!
May xx
Love, create, explore and inspire <3


  1. These are gorgeous, May! I can't wait to try them!

  2. Braised Vietnamese Meatballs. Such a delicious looking dish. Now this is a must try recipe for me. I just can not wait to make this. Thank you for sharing.