I haven’t been married for long, and one of the challenges is getting used to having Chinese in-laws. Mine are great, so it hasn’t been very challenging, but I’m always looking for more common ground and good conversation topics. Besides our love for one particular Chinese girl, we really don’t have a ton in common.

When it comes to food, my father-in-law and I usually agree. (I may not be as fond of the rice wine, but at least we can agree on beer.) Recently my mother-in-law bought a jar of “Russian style” pickles at the grocery store and was delighted to find that both of us loved them.

The last time my in-laws came over for dinner, my father-in-law and I finished off another jar of those pickles. As I was smiling at the idea of pickles bringing two very different people together, my father-in-law reached for the pickle jar. “They’re all gone,” I was thinking. “What’s he going to do?”

And then he drank the pickle juice.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. At least it was from a jar. I have a colleague who, if we order a cold dish, will often lift up the plate at the end of the meal and sip the vinegary dressing left at the bottom. Sour-spicy juegenfen (蕨根粉) are especially at risk!

  2. chinotex Says: March 8, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Pickle juice is actually very high in electrolytes. Many cyclists drink (diluted) pickle juice instead of Gatorade/other sports drinks in order to rehydrate, and it does a pretty good job. So maybe he was just trying to preempt a bad hangover. Had you been drinking much that night?

  3. I personally often drink the leftover liquid of pickled herrings (they’re traditionally quite popular in Belgium) – ever since I was a kid.

  4. Sounds strange to us foreigners, until one goes to shanxi 山西 province where they drink the local vinegar chencu 陈醋 for fun. It’s supposedly good for the digestive system. Not only do they drink the stuff, but some wash their faces with it, even shine their shoes with it!

  5. Its pretty common in east europe to drink pickle juice – in the ukraine they say that duiring an night of drinking you should eat pickles, and then keep the water for the morning after to recover for your hangover . . .

  6. Pickle juice can be good. I prefer bonding over pizza though.

  7. Here, does pickles means gherkins (cornichons) or is it a more general term for preserved food ?

  8. Wow, a cornichon? I had to go to dictionary.com for that one. KMK, you might try the same.

  9. I had never heard of a “Russian Style Pickle” before, and looked it up on Google. http://www.russian-luv.com/russian-food.html . Awesome. Why don’t they make Chinese food websites like this?

  10. Besides being adept at drinking pickle juice, your father in-law knows how to write Chinese calligraphy!

    I can see him gassing the juice down, as if in a film’s final scene to end in a smile.

  11. @Jeffrey D,
    ^^ The illustrations really impressed us! (but apparently will disappoint ad believers, xD)

    I don’t know Russian style pickles either, is it highly seasoned? I like sweet pickle juice, like gherkin’s.

  12. Wow, I didn’t know pickle juice drinking was so widespread. I guess that makes my father-in-law a little less weird in my eyes, but we still have that pickle juice chams between us. 🙂


    It was gherkins. I belief this is the exact kind we ate.


    They’re rather sweet, kinda salty, sour, and have lots of garlic.

  13. Ah-ha. No, I won’t drink it directly, my general way is to pour the juice into the rice, hmm rice gruel to be exact, so it would be weak. You should try it someday John.
    (Grrr, I hate garlic! that sounds quite “Russian style”.) d:

  14. Hehe.
    I had to eat once these blue eggs to keep my chinese grandfather happy…
    Wasn’t very good as my stomach turned around, but you gotta keep the harmony… 😉

  15. It’s true that the pickle juice is good against hangover… try it out! I’m not so sure about “Russian style” though…

  16. It looks like the same brand of pickled gherkins that I usually buy at Parkson. Very nice. I like to dip the gherkins in the pickle juice before each bite. Yummy.

  17. I think the only thing worse than drinking a jar of pickle juice is drinking a jar of gifelte fish juice

  18. As a to-be expert in seeking common ground while reserving differences in cultural harmony in the real sense of the term, you have my vote for a special category just on it.


  19. denis_suslov Says: May 3, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    In Russia it is also common, as Steve wrote: ” during an night of drinking you should eat pickles, and then keep the water for the morning after to recover for your hangover” …

    And Wilson made me lough really loud on his comment:” I can see him gassing the juice down, as if in a film’s final scene to end in a smile. ” Lol lol lol… what a great reference to Once Upon A Time In America…

  20. Too funny. I have to say that I never found a definitive peer-reviewed study of why it seems to be good for people. I 1st heard of it when stationed in Friedberg Germany in 97. A guy in the barracks was already hammered and downed half a jar, said it would keep him from getting sick that night and coat his stomach… I started it as a morning-after remedy and it works pretty good for me.

    Here on Boracay, there is an Austrian restro down the hill that sells jars of cornichon (Gherkins) but they’re only good if cold.

    Because of my mild case of dysentery these past few days, I used it when everything else just flowed thru…I dunno, seems the body absorbs it much more readily than gatoraid. Water – 10 min. Apple juice – 15 min. Gatorade – 30 minutes. Pickle juice – calmed me long enough to sleep a few hours. I know its highly salty, but I would have though the vinegar would mess a person up.

    oh well, it works. And in the Philippines thats better than seeing a doctor here.

  21. When I first read this article, I thought drinking pickle juice was pretty bizarre too. But just the other day, my grandmother in Sydney also revealed that she is partial to a swig now and then.

    (Of course, this is the country where people eat Vegemite, so I probably shouldn’t be surprised).

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