Pickling Workshop at La Cocina, SF

Last Sunday, I conducted my very first cooking class/workshop in San Francisco. It was organized by Slow Food SF and held at La Cocina, an incubator kitchen for low income minority women.

The series was aptly titled “Grandmother Workshops” and the goal was to teach people the traditional culinary skills our grandmothers used to teach us. Obviously, you needn’t be a grandmother to teach a workshop.

My chosen topic was pickles: kimchi, Chinese cucumber and carrot pickle and asinan buah (Indonesian fruit salad, see below).

The days leading up to the workshop was a flurry of activity shopping for the right ingredients, not so easy when you don’t live in a metropolitan city. Fortunately a small Korean-owned market in Seaside proffered red pepper powder, the one ingredient I thought would be most difficult to find.

When I got to San Francisco, I stayed with my friend Angeline who was my chauffer, helper and photographer (yup, she took all the pictures on this page) all rolled into one. I owe you one, Ange!

On Saturday, I scoured Chinatown for some fresh produce. While I was lugging daikon, jicama, cabbage and the like up and down Grant Street, Angie and my hubby went for foot reflexology and a full body massage respectively (I am in no way bitter about that, of course).

me and sugars

Prepping for the class

On Sunday, we got to La Cocina an hour early to prep. The large cavernous space comprises 2 sections, 4 work stations, even more sinks, several industrial-sized burners, an industrial-sized mixer, and a massive dishwasher, just to name a few accoutrements I saw.

By 3 o’clock, about 25 people had filled the room. I talked a little about pickling in general and the ingredients we would be using.


Everyone had different reasons for coming. One gentleman really wanted to learn how to make kimchi and requested that straight out. My second cousin came because she wanted to see me (or so I’d like to think). A science teacher thought that pickling might be a fun food science lesson to teach her students.

Soon, the sound of (knife) blade to (chopping) board reverberated throughout the space and informal chatter invaded the kitchen. I walked around making sure everyone knew what they were doing.

pickle mania

Pickle mania!

The communal pickle pot was the first to fill with the assortment of vegetables everyone brought. This we pickled using the same brine as the Chinese pickles. Some students worked on the kimchi and others tackled the jicama and pineapple for the asinan.

kimchi making2

Massaging the chili paste into the vegetables to make kimchi

There was some bickering over the vegetable peelers (we only had 3!) and we ran out of ginger and vinegar halfway. It was also hard to be heard with the banging of pots and pans in the next room and because of the echo-y space. And yes, there was chaos; as my friend said, “hands-on workshops are always a handful.”

In the end, everyone seemed to have a great time. I believe that the asinan was hands down the favorite. When everyone was filling their take home jars, that was the first to disappear.

As for me, I had lots of fun and it was definitely a learning experience.

Indonesian Fruit Salad (Asinan Buah)


The communal pickle pot is on the left and the asinan is on the right

There are two versions of asinan, this one with chunks of fruit and (fruitlike) vegetables and another with a medley of vegetables–carrots, cucumbers and cabbage–and showered with roasted peanuts. This is my favorite, eaten as a refreshing snack on a hot, sunny day. Indonesian palm sugar might be a little difficult to find. Substitute Thai palm sugar or seek out Sweet Tree Sustainable Sweeteners evaporated palm sugar which I found at Whole Foods.

Time: 20 minutes
Makes 4 servings

2 cups fresh pineapple cut into 1/2-inch chunks (about 8 ounces)
1 large firm mango, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 small sweet potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 small (about 8 ounces) jicama (Mexican turnip), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons (about 2 ounces) chopped Indonesian palm sugar
1 fresh, long red chili (like Holland or Fresno), pounded with a mortar and pestle or chopped in a food processor into confetti-sized bits, or 1 teaspoon bottled chili paste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

Place the fruit and vegetables in a colander over the sink to remove excess liquids.

Place the palm sugar, chili and salt in a large bowl. Pour in the boiling water and vinegar and stir well. Let it cool.

When the dressing is cool, tumble the fruit and vegetables into the bowl and toss. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to meld. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

As grandma always says, please share!

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9 thoughts on “Pickling Workshop at La Cocina, SF

  1. Pat – This pickle/fruit salad was a revelation. I immediately called my Indonesian friend Elsa (who I sent to your mom’s restaurant) because I thought raw sweet potato was a mistake. What a delicious and refreshing dish. It was the kind of recipe that sent me to the market immediately. I have given several jars to people. Delicious!!
    Deb Samuels

  2. I am so glad to have found your blog. I love it. Its all the things I am interested in. I cant wait to read all of it. I look forward to looking at that book.

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